Debby K's Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Fan Fiction








As the Eye Can See


by Debby K





Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
As the Eye Can See
by Debby K

************
Chapter 1
************

"And so, Michaela, I think you can see that my bank offers the greatest convenience for you," Preston concluded his presentation.

Michaela had politely sat and listened for the past half hour, after the banker had barged into the Clinic.

"Mr. Lodge," she finally looked up. "I'm certain that your bank is all of the things you say it is."

"Good," his smile was blinding. "Then we're in agreement."

"Not quite," she added. "I also recall the many times in which my family.... and even this town, has needed your bank to be..... shall we say, compassionate? Yet, your demands for deadlines ignored extenuating circumstances."

"Michaela," he sounded condescending. "I run a bank. A business. In your field of medicine, compassion is a necessity. In mine, it's a weakness. I cannot simply grant extensions for people who owe money. I have investors to answer to."

She shook her head.

"Try to put yourself in my shoes," he stated.

"I'd rather not," she was growing tired of his presence.

"It's New Year's Eve," he pointed out. "The dawn of the last year of the decade. Think of the possibilities. As your financial planner, I could...."

"You could return to your bank, and let me get back to my work," she interrupted.

"Your work?" he chuckled. "Michaela, you hardly need to work anymore. As a wealthy woman, you should be living in a mansion, having tea with the ladies of society, not.... sitting here in a Clinic doing such menial tasks."

"Mr. Lodge," her tone became stern. "What I do is far from menial. Now, if you'll excuse me."

"Very well," he sighed. "But I do believe you'll see my point of view eventually, and when that time comes, you can count on Preston A. Lodge III to be here. Since you will be in attendance at the Chateau's gala this evening, perhaps the sight of some of Denver's elite will change your...."

"I doubt it," she grew more frustrated.

"By the way, you might mention to your husband that the attire for this evening is formal," he frowned. "No need to embarrass you."

"I don't care if my husband wears buckskins, I'll proudly stand beside him," she defied.

A fortuitous knock at the door interrupted their conversation.

A relieved Michaela spoke up, "Come in."

************

"Sully," Robert E called out from the Livery. "Got a minute?"

"Sure," he smiled. "I was just comin' by t' see if that sleigh's ready for t'night. What can I do for ya?"

The blacksmith wiped his brow, "I wanted t'.... ask your advice."

"Advice?" Sully wondered.

"It's about Grace," he began. "She ain't herself."

Sully worried, "Is she... drinkin' again?"

"No," Robert E shook his head. "I almost wish she was."

"That bad?" he commented.

"I don't know which end is up with that woman anymore," the blacksmith set down his hammer. "She's nice as can be one minute. The next, she's bitin' off my head."

"How long's she been this way?" Sully rubbed his upper lip.

"I don't know," he thought about it. "Maybe two.... three weeks."

Sully pondered, "Maybe she's gettin'.... well.... when women get t' a certain age, things start happenin' t' their temperament."

"Yea?" his brow wrinkled. "Like what?"

Sully recalled a similar time with his wife, "Like bitin' your head off, bein' in a good mood one second, then ready t' skin ya alive the next."

"You speakin' from experience?" a grin passed Robert E's face.

"Michaela thought she might be goin' through a change o' life last year.... somethin' called menopause," Sully revealed. "Things were happenin' t' her body."

"Menopause," Robert E repeated. "Is it painful?"

"I don't think so," he said.

"What'd she do for it?" the blacksmith inquired.

"Nothin'," he replied. "Turned out that's not what was wrong with her."

"What was wrong then?" Robert E questioned.

"She was pregnant," Sully smiled.

************

"Miss Bwidget," Josef called out from the kitchen.

"Shhh," she came down the steps. "I just got the wee ones t' sleep. Now, what did ya want, lad?"

"I wanna go see Mama," he asked.

"There's no one t' take ya," she explained. "Brian's busy upstairs, an'...."

"I can go by self," he countered.

"Oh, can ya?" she grinned.

"Uh huh," he nodded.

"Then who would help me with the babies?" she raised an eyebrow.

"They sleepin'," he reminded. "Ya don' need help. You do a weal good job with those kids."

"But I wanna tell ya somethin'," she sat down and lifted him onto her lap.

"Ya do?" he tilted his head.

"Don't ya know what day this is, laddie?" she asked.

"Um.... Mama say Twosdee?" he thought.

"Well, yes, it is Tuesday," she nodded. "But it's a very special Tuesday. T'day is New Year's Eve."

"I hear that in Bible," he tapped her hand lightly.

"No, lad," she smiled. "That's Adam an' Eve. When ya hear the word 'eve,' it means 'evenin'.' So it's the evenin' before New Year's Day."

"What ya call New Year evenin' then?" he wondered.

"Well...." she grinned at his perceptiveness. "Where I come from, not many people remember that night."

"Why?" Josef persisted.

"Never you mind," she laughed. "T'morrow, we'll be doin' some special things t' welcome in the new year of 1879."

His eyes widened, "What we do?"

"I'll be fixin' a special dinner," she pointed out.

"With pokles?" he questioned.

"Of course," she nodded. "An' we'll have ham."

"Why?" Josef smiled.

"Ham comes from a hog," she stated. "An' the hog is a symbol of prosperity."

"Pwosperty?" he attempted.

"Prosperity," she repeated. "It means wealth. We'll have wealth in the new year."

"Like money?" he thought about it.

"Right," she said.

"What else we have?" he was curious.

"I made a New Year's ring," she informed him.

"A wing?" he asked.

"A sort o' pastry shaped like a ring," Bridget remarked. "Because the completion of a year is t' come full circle, an' the circle begins again."

"What else special?" he enjoyed learning.

"It's said that the first person t' visit ya on New Year's Day will bring either good luck or bad luck for the year," she spoke low. "If he has dark hair, it will be good."

"I got dark hair," he pointed.

"Aye," she nodded. "But you're not a visitor. Ya live here."

"Oh," he shrugged. "Why Mama an' Papa go 'way t'night?"

"They're goin' t' a social at the Chateau," she smiled. "They'll be home after midnight."

"When that?" he inquired.

"That's when the new year begins," she answered. "Now, would ya like t' come out t' the root cellar with me t' get the ham?"

"'Kay," he agreed.

Josef held her hand as Bridget led him to the small storage area. When she opened the door and reached for the ham, she noticed a bottle chilling on the shelf next to it.

So did Josef, "We dwink that?"

"No," she smiled. "That's for your Ma an' Pa."

"How ya know?" he put his hands on his hips.

"I just do," she said. "Come on now. Back we go."

************

"Grace," Michaela's face lit up. "It's so good to see you."

The Cafe owner eyed Preston, "I'd say my timin' is just right."

Michaela agreed, "Mr. Lodge was just leaving."

"Yes, well...." he tipped his hat. "Good day."

When the door closed behind him, Michaela frowned, "That man."

"No need t' tell me," Grace waved her hand.

"What can I do for you?" Michaela's demeanor changed.

"I brung ya some black-eyed peas," she offered. "For good luck in the new year."

"Thank you," Michaela accepted. "We're looking forward to 1879."

"Talk 'round here is all about that new hospital you're gonna build," Grace smiled.

"We'll break ground for it in the spring," she informed her. "Sully is going to supervise its construction and begin work on expanding our homestead, as well."

"You an' him have sure done your part t' expand the population o' Colorado Springs," Grace chuckled.

Michaela blushed, "We have, haven't we?"

"Dr. Mike," her tone turned serious. "I was wonderin'.... long as I'm here... could ya take a look at me?"

"Certainly," Michaela replied. "Aren't you feeling well?"

Grace folded her arms nervously, "I'm feelin' kinda funny inside."

"Sit here," Michaela gestured toward her examining table.

Retrieving her stethoscope, she began to question Grace in more detail.

***********

"Matthew?" Hank entered the young man's office.

"Yea?" he looked up from his law book.

"Got some bad news for ya," he reached into his pocket. "Got a telegram."

Matthew accepted the paper and began to read. When he finished, he exhaled slowly.

Hank put his hands on his hips, "Could've predicted this would happen."

Matthew filled with guilt as he read again, "Enid McBain disappeared last week. Was expected by family for Christmas. Am sending poster and description. Please notify if found."

"I'll post his picture when it gets here," Hank stated. "Won't do any good."

He looked up, "If only he'd have come forward t' identify my client before he was found innocent."

"Must've been afraid," Hank knew. "Turns out he was right t' feel that way."

"I'm gonna find him," Matthew stood up.

"Hold on," the sheriff asserted. "Ya can't just go off lookin' for him by yourself."

"Why not?" Matthew defended. "In case you forgot, I used t' be sheriff. I know how t'....."

"Then I'm comin' with ya," Hank interjected.

"I won't deny that would make things easier," the young man knew. "I'll ask Sully, too."

"When ya wanna leave?" he asked.

"How 'bout t'morrow?" Matthew suggested.

"Make it the next day," Hank smiled. "T'night's one o' my busiest at the Gold Nugget. I won't be much for travelin' t'morrow."

"A man's life could...." Matthew was interrupted.

"It'll give us time t' get that poster an' description, too," Hank pointed out.

"All right," he reluctantly agreed. "Day after t'morrow. We leave at dawn."

"Damn," Hank shook his head. "I wanted t' say that."

************

Michaela could not contain her smile.

"Dr. Mike?" Grace was puzzled. "What is it? Why ya grinnin' like that?"

"Grace," Michaela took her hands. "It's happened. It's finally happened."

"What?" she was still clueless.

"You're pregnant," the physician confirmed. "I would say nearly three months along."

"I.... I'm gonna have a baby?" Grace felt a rush of warmth.

"Yes, you are," Michaela's eyes welled.

"I thought...." she tried to sort out her emotions. "I thought after my miscarriage five years ago, I'd never.... Oh, Dr. Mike. Tell me again."

"You and Robert E are going to have a baby," Michaela spoke slowly.

"Robert E," Grace suddenly frowned.

"What's wrong?" she questioned.

"We been fussin' an' fightin' the last few weeks," she revealed. "That man's more stubborn than a mule."

"That man is going to be overjoyed," Michaela commented. "All thoughts of fussing and fighting will soon flee. Now, I'm going to write down a few things that I want you to do. Some foods that I want you to eat...."

***********

Bridget opened the door, "Well, Loren Bray, as I live an' breathe."

He removed his hat, "'Afternoon, Bridget."

"Come in," she invited. "'Tis cold out there. What can I do for ya?"

"I was wonderin'," he hesitated. "That is, I was hopin'....."

"Wonderin' an' hopin' what?" she encouraged.

"Would ya like t' go t' that there thing at the Chateau t'night?" he came out with it. "With me, that is."

"Well," she smiled broadly. "That sounds right fine, but there's no one t' watch the children."

Brian had overheard from the living room, "I'll watch 'em."

"That's my boy," Loren grinned.

"It's a fancy affair," Bridget hesitated. "I got nothin' that fine t' wear."

"So happens, I got some nice dresses in the store," he offered. "I'd be happy t' let ya wear one. Could be sort of an advertisement for me."

"Since ya put it like that, how can I refuse?" she nodded. "I'll be a livin' catalog for Bray's Mercantile. When should I expect ya?"

"I'll be by at eight," he stated.

"Maybe I better come int' town t' check on that dress," the thought occurred to her.

"Sure," he agreed. "I'll take ya, then have ya back in no time."

"Brian...." she removed her apron.

"Don't worry," he smiled. "I'll watch the kids."

"Thanks, lad," she donned her coat.

************

"Michaela?" Dorothy entered the Clinic.

"Dorothy," she looked up from her desk. "It's nice to see you."

"Good t' see you, too," the redhead smiled.

"I was just thinking about you," Michaela commented.

"Oh?" she replied. "Why's that?"

"My book," Michaela pointed to the papers across her desk. "I can see no way that I'm going to be able to complete this. I was wondering if I might interest you in helping me."

"Helpin' ya?" she wondered.

"You're a published author," Michaela reminded. "You can express the written word much more eloquently than I. I struggle for hours over how to phrase a single sentence."

"Sure," the editor consented. "I'd be happy t' help."

"Oh, thank you," Michaela was relieved.

"But I won't be able t' do much 'til Cloud Dancin' an' I get back," she stated.

"Where are you going?" Michaela was curious.

"T' meet with some tribal leaders at the Pine Ridge Reservation," Dorothy revealed. "A man named Pratt is startin' an educational facility for Indians, an' he's comin' west t' recruit students from the reservations."

"A school for Indians?" she pondered.

"Cloud Dancin' wants t' hear what Pratt has t' say," Dorothy explained. "I thought I might do an article about it for The Gazette."

"Sounds intriguing," she was interested.

"We leave on the last train t'day," her friend informed her.

"We'll miss you," Michaela embraced her.

"Brian just agreed t' run The Gazette in my absence," she noted. "He'll be goin' back an' forth between here an' Denver t' work at The Rocky Mountain News, too."

"His career is keeping him quite busy," Michaela marveled. "And he's continuing his education, as well."

"You an' Sully seem t' be gettin' along fine," the redhead probed.

"Yes, of course," Michaela was puzzled. "Why wouldn't we be?"

"I know before ya got sick, you told me you'd been arguin' over your inheritance," she explained.

"We've reached a sort of compromise on that issue," Michaela smiled.

"Oh?" she was interested.

"The money is mine to spend as I wish," Michaela informed her.

Dorothy laughed, "That's a compromise?"

"As long as I don't spend it supporting our household," she added.

"A man's gotta be the one to support his family," the redhead counseled.

"I know that's very important to Sully," she agreed. "It's also quite frustrating for me. But he insists the additions to the homestead, anything to do with the running of our household and children are his responsibility."

"An' you, Michaela Quinn, accept that?" Dorothy smiled.

"I accept that it is important to him, and therefore, it's important to me," she nodded.

"That's a lot o' money to be sittin' around," Dorothy knew.

"Oh, it won't be sitting around," Michaela was determined. "I'm going to set up trust funds for the children. Their educations will be paid for. I intend to use the money on various philanthropic and environmental purposes. And I want to help the Cheyenne."

"How can ya help 'em?" Dorothy shook her head. "The government considers itself at war with 'em."

"Perhaps Cloud Dancing and you can think of a way," she offered.

"I best be goin'," Dorothy pulled her shawl tighter.

As she opened the door, Sully stood ready to knock.

"Afternoon," he smiled.

"Afternoon yourself," Dorothy returned. "I'll see you two later."

Sully closed the door behind her, "You done for the day?"

"Nearly," Michaela kissed him. "I just need to straighten my desk."

"I saw Robert E a little bit ago," he folded his arms.

"Oh?" she waited.

"He says Grace has been actin' kinda funny," he said.

"She came by to see me," Michaela continued to tidy her desk.

"She okay?" he worried.

"Very okay," she did not contain her smile.

************
Chapter 2
************

"You gonna tell me what's goin' on?" Sully noticed his wife's expression.

She slipped her arms around his waist, "I don't suppose it would violate doctor-patient confidentiality if I told you."

"Told me what?" he grew more curious.

She traced his jaw line with her finger, "It's something that you and I have been through a few times, Mr. Sully."

"Michaela," he implored. "What?"

She took his hand and lowered it to her abdomen.

Sully caressed her, then suddenly realized, "Grace is pregnant? I knew it!"

"You knew?" she raised an eyebrow.

"Like you said," he grinned. "You an' me been through it a few times. Robert E was describin' how she was actin' an' I figured that was why."

"I'm so happy for them, Sully," her eyes moistened.

"This is the best news," he agreed. "Next t' you an' me havin' babies, that is."

She laughed, "Grace said you and I have done our part to expand the population of Colorado Springs."

He leaned close to her ear, "Bet she didn't say how much fun we had doin' our part."

She lifted up slightly to kiss him. Heightened desire was instantly triggered in both of them.

Sully finally pulled back, "Whew. We better be savin' somethin' for our special night."

"Speaking of which...." she paused. "Preston was by again."

"He still badgerin' you about your money?" he tensed.

She hoped to calm him, "I can take care of him."

"You shouldn't have to," his anger increased. "I ain't gonna let him continue t' harass you."

She ran her hands up and down his sides, "Let's not think about that tonight, please? Let's enjoy welcoming in the new year together."

"I wasn't here with ya last New Year's," he recalled. "I got a lot t' make up for."

"You were in Kansas," she remembered.

"And you were readin' that Civil War diary," he added.

"But dreaming of us," she smiled.

"Don't have t' dream this year," he lifted her palm to kiss it. "We'll have the real thing."

"Mmmm," she kissed him again. "I much prefer that."

"So, you ready t' get Katie an' go home now?" he asked.

"Yes," she said as he helped her with her coat. "Dorothy told me that she and Cloud Dancing are leaving for the Pine Ridge Reservation."

"He told me," Sully commented.

As they opened the door, Matthew approached.

"Hey, Ma, Sully," he was out of breath.

"You in a hurry?" Sully noticed.

"I need t' ask ya somethin', Sully," the young man began to calm.

"Sure," he stepped back. "What is it?"

"Hank got a telegram sayin' the witness who claims t' have seen my client commit murder has disappeared," he detailed. "We're goin' t' look for him, an'.... well, I was hopin' you'd come along. No one's got trackin' skills like you."

"Sure," Sully did not hesitate.

"When did the witness disappear?" Michaela's brow wrinkled.

"Christmas Day," Matthew specified. "We're plannin' on leavin' January 2. Hank's expectin' a poster with what he looks like, an'...."

"Where's his home?" Sully interrupted.

"Castle Rock," Matthew informed him.

"That's where we'll head first then," Sully nodded.

"Okay," Matthew nodded. "Have a good time t'night."

"Won't we see you and Lily at the dance?" Michaela inquired.

"I'm not much in the mood for it," he shook his head. "Besides, she an' her Pa are visitin' Lily's aunt in Manitou, so I was thinkin' I'd spend a quiet evenin' at the homestead, if that's okay with you."

"Of course," she brushed back a lock of her son's hair.

************

Michaela was quiet on the ride home.

"Somethin' on your mind?" Sully sensed.

"No, nothing," her tone indicated otherwise.

"Come on," he drew the horse to a stop. "What is it?"

She could not hide her feelings from him, "I worry about you and Matthew when you go off like this."

"We'll be fine," he assured.

She slipped her arm through his, "I'm concerned about your safety, Sully. If anything happened to you or Matthew...."

"Hey," he squeezed her hand. "Nothin' t' worry about. Let's think about t'night. Remember?"

"I remember," she turned up the corner of her mouth.

************

"You're going to the dance with Loren?" Michaela's eyes widened. "That's wonderful."

"Truth be told, the man can't resist my charms," Bridget chuckled.

Sully teased, "That's true. If I wasn't married...."

"Loren's even loanin' me a dress, don't ya know," the nanny informed them.

"You gonna save a dance for me?" Sully winked.

"If your darlin' wife don't mind," Bridget consented.

"I'll permit it," Michaela teased. "But I'll be watching you very closely, Mr. Sully."

"An' don't ya go worryin' about the wee ones," Bridget added. "Brian's gonna be here t' watch 'em."

"As will Matthew," Michaela noted.

The sound of their children giggling overhead got their attention.

"I'll go...." the nanny started for the steps.

"No," Michaela said. "I'll see what they're up to."

************

"Robert E," Grace smiled. "I was thinkin' we might have a nice romantic dinner t'night."

"I thought you wanted t' go t' bed early," he put his hands on his hips.

"I changed my mind," she replied.

"Nothin' new there," he shook his head.

"Don't you want a nice, romantic dinner?" her tone changed.

"Suit yourself," he shrugged.

"Well, it takes two t' be romantic," she frowned.

"When ya act like that, I can't see either one o' us bein' romantic," he raised his voice.

"Act like what?" she challenged.

"Act like a spinnin' top with your changin' moods," he compared. "I never know how t' act 'round you no more."

"You could act like my husband," she demanded.

"When you act like my wife," he headed for the door.

"Where you goin'?" she questioned.

"T' meet Sully," he told her. "He's pickin' up somethin' at the Livery."

With a slam of the door, he left her. As he crossed the street, he spotted Sully waiting for him.

"Hey, Robert E," the mountain man smiled. "How ya feel?"

"Feel?" he tilted his head. "I feel fine. Why?"

"Just wonderin'," Sully patted him on the back.

"Why you actin' like this?" the blacksmith asked.

"Like what?" he wondered.

"Like you're real happy about somethin'," his friend returned.

"I am real happy," Sully grinned.

"Yea, well, I ain't," Robert E brought forth one of his horses.

Sully noted his expression, "You an' Grace doin' anythin' special t'night?"

"She said somethin' about a romantic dinner, but then she got in one o' them moods," he began to hitch the animal to the sleigh.

"Get used t' it," Sully said under his breath.

"Huh?" Robert E had not heard.

"I said...." he pointed to the reins. "Don't loosen it."

"I won't," the blacksmith cast him a curious glance. "You never told me how t' hitch up a horse before."

Sully shrugged, "I just figured you're a little distracted."

"Yea, I'm distracted all right," his jaw tensed. "An' I don't know how much more o' this I can take."

"You'd be surprised what a man can take for the woman he loves," Sully grinned.

"You sure are actin' strange," Robert E stated.

"Just lookin' forward t' a little romance myself," Sully winked.

************

Katie sat on the bed silently watching her mother dress for the party. Her gown was an off white silk, with pearl drops along the low neckline.

"You look beautiful, Mama," Katie admired her mother.

"Thank you, my darling," Michaela applied some of the perfume that Sully loved on her.

"May I have some?" Katie stood up on the bed.

Michaela sprayed a touch on her, "Where's Josef?"

"Downstairs with Matthew an' Bran an' the babies," she recounted. "When's Poppy gonna get here?"

"Soon," she smiled.

"Mama," Katie jumped down from the bed and went to the vanity. "Can I ask ya somethin'?"

"Certainly," Michaela began to brush her daughter's hair.

"What will I be when I grow up?" Katie posed the question.

Michaela smiled, "What would you like to be?"

"I used t' wanna be a doctor," the little girl looked up.

"But now?" Michaela invited.

"Now, I think I might wanna be a teacher," the child revealed.

"A noble profession," her mother nodded.

"You know what most o' the kids' Mamas are?" Katie asked.

"What?" Michaela went along.

"They're just Mamas," the little girl shrugged. "They stay home all day."

"I believe that being a mother is the most wonderful job there is," she pointed out. "And if you investigate further, I think you'll discover that they don't just stay home doing nothing. They care for their smaller children, cook, clean, do the washing, milk the cows...."

"You do that, too," Katie mentioned.

"With a great deal of help," Michaela said. "Your Daddy, Miss Bridget and your older brothers all help me, which enables me to practice medicine."

"Wendell Reed says you're rich," Katie repeated.

Michaela sat down beside her, "Your grandmother did leave me a large sum of money, but...."

"Wendell says ya don't have t' work," Katie added.

"What kind of life would that be?" she held her daughter's hand. "Could you see me sitting around the house all day, doing nothing?"

"Nope," Katie giggled. "You'd be makin' lists."

"Me?" she pointed to herself. "Making lists?"

Josef rushed into the room, "Mama, can we get hog?"

"A hog?" Michaela was amazed.

"Miss Bwidget say it pwosperty," he nodded.

"Prosperity," she clarified.

"Wight," he agreed. "We be wich."

"Mama's already rich, Joey," Katie informed him.

"My riches don't come from money," she embraced her children.

Sully strolled into the room, a baby in each arm, "Look who I got here."

"Noah! Annie!" Josef tickled their feet.

Both babies moved their legs energetically.

Sully suddenly could not take his eyes off of his wife in her gown.

"Poppy," Katie tapped his arm.

Still he did not respond.

"Poppy," she tried again.

"Hmm?" he finally looked down. "Joey an' I have been teachin' the babies somethin'."

"What?" he grinned.

"Set them on the bed," she invited.

Sully placed the twins on the bed, where each one sat attentively watching their sister.

"Say Pa-pa," Katie encouraged.

Annie smiled, "Pa."

Sully's eyes widened, "Annie!"

Josef tickled Noah's side, "Say Pa-pa."

Noah came out with, "Bah!"

"Pa," Annie swayed back and forth.

Sully lifted his baby girl and kissed her cheek, "That's right. I'm your Pa."

"We work on Noah more," Josef said.

Sully tickled his baby son's side, "He'll say it when he's ready, Joe."

Noah rolled onto his back and giggled.

Michaela came to her husband's side and rubbed Annie's back, "How quickly they grow."

"Yep," he kissed Annie's cheek.

"Pa," she spoke up again.

Michaela glanced at the clock on the mantle, "Time to get ready for bed, you two."

"Papa got sleigh," Josef changed the subject.

"I'll take you kids for a ride t'morrow when I return it t' Robert E," Sully promised. "Do what your Ma says now."

The children scampered from the room.

"Ma," Annie reached for her mother.

Michaela took the baby into her arms, "Hello, my darling."

Sully sat on the bed and kissed Noah's belly, "Hey, No-bo."

"Bah!" the dark haired little boy giggled.

Michaela lay Annie beside her brother. With Sully's prompting, the babies laughed and playfully rolled toward one another.

"You need to get ready, Mr. Sully," Michaela tapped his leg.

"Thought I might wear this," he pointed to his buckskins.

"Sully," she frowned.

"Just jokin'," he admitted.

"I did tell Preston that I'd be on your arm even if you wore buckskins," she laughed.

"Good. Then I'll...." he was interrupted.

"But I was hoping to see you in formal attire," she looked at him flirtatiously. "There's something about you in a white tie and tails that makes me.... melt."

"Say no more," he raised his hand. "I'm all for meltin' ya."


************
Chapter 3
************

"Well, well, Bridget, Loren," Preston smiled broadly. "It's nice to see you here."

"Wouldn't've missed it," Loren commented.

"'Tis a fine gala, Mr. Lodge," Bridget beamed.

"Who's watching the Sully progeny this evening with their fine nanny here?" he attempted to be charming.

"The Sully what?" Loren frowned.

"Children," Preston defined.

"Oh, the older lads are," Bridget smiled.

"Excuse me, Loren," Sully approached. "This beautiful lady promised me a dance."

"That I did," the nanny winked.

Sully took her in his arms and began to waltz as Michaela nodded her approval.

"Dr. Mike?" Loren offered his arm.

"Thank you, Loren," she commenced to waltz with him.

"You an' me ain't had a heart t' heart in some time," he remarked.

"Is there something on your mind?" Michaela perceived. "Are you feeling all right?"

"I'm fine," he informed her. "It's just.... unless I'm sick, I don't get t' talk t' ya much. Bridget does the shoppin', so ya don't even come int' the mercantile anymore."

"Are you trying to say that you miss me, Loren?" she smiled.

"'Course I miss ya," he sounded gruff.

"You know that you're more than welcome at the homestead," she assured. "Any time."

"Ya got all them kids now," he hedged.

"Who think of you as a grandfather and would be thrilled if you came to see them," she added.

"They are cute as buttons," he smiled slightly.

"There are others you could visit in our home, as well," she hinted.

"Bridget?" he picked up on it.

"Yes," she tapped his shoulder. "She's a fine woman."

"That she is," he nodded.

"And I know she enjoys your company," Michaela encouraged.

"I like her's, too," he admitted.

"Why don't you join us for dinner tomorrow?" she invited.

"Thought you'd never ask," Loren whirled her around the dance floor more briskly.

As the waltz concluded, Sully and Bridget approached them.

"Could I have the next dance, Dr. Quinn?" Sully smiled at his wife.

"I'd be honored, Mr. Sully," she returned.

As he led her back to the dance floor, Loren returned to Bridget, "Don't know how I'll compare t' a younger man now."

"I prefer a little gray hair myself," the nanny chuckled.

Again in each other's arms, Michaela commented, "I missed you."

"Jealous?" he teased.

"Very," she nodded.

"Preston bother ya yet?" he suspected.

"No," she replied.

"Good," he smiled. "Maybe if we dance all night, he won't be able to."

"You've become quite a dancer," she joked.

"Long as my partner's got sturdy feet," he looked down.

************

"Robert E," Grace tapped his arm as he napped in a chair.

"Mmmm?" he awoke with a start.

"I wanna talk t' ya," she broached the subject.

"Can't it wait 'til mornin', woman?" he yawned. "I ain't lookin' t' argue with ya t'night."

"I ain't lookin' t' argue either," she grew defensive.

"Then just go t' sleep," he rose from the chair and went into the bedroom.

Grace sighed to herself, "This baby'll be born by the time I even tell ya about it."

************

Sully and Michaela snuggled together in the sleigh as he guided it toward home.

"It's not even midnight yet," she said. "Why did you want to leave the Chateau?"

"I wanted us t' welcome in the new year some place special," he snapped the reins to speed the horse.

"Where are we going?" she was curious.

"You'll see," he grinned.

"What's in the basket there?" she pointed to the floor.

"Somethin' t' keep us warm," he was vague.

"I thought there were other ways we could keep warm, Mr. Sully," she implied.

"That, too," he spoke low.

She looped her arm through his and sat in silence as they began to glide up an incline.

"I know where we're going now," she became more alert. "It's your mountain."

"Our mountain," he clarified.

Finally pulling the sleigh to a halt, he paused to survey the scene before them. Sufficient moonlight illuminated the snow covered landscape beneath the clear Colorado sky.

"Look at it, Michaela," he was breathless. "Ain't it magnificent?"

"Yes," she rubbed his arm.

"Sometimes...." he hesitated. "Sometimes I wish we could keep it just like this, far as the eye can see."

"I do, too," she studied his countenance.

"Almost midnight," he reached for the basket.

"What?" she saw him pull a bottle of champagne from it.

"For our special night," he tugged at the cork. "Get the glasses."

Finally, popping it free, he poured the sparkling liquid and returned the bottle to the basket.

"A toast," she raised her glass. "To the man I adore, who holds my heart forevermore."

"You turnin' int' a poet on me?" he joked.

"I cannot possibly compete with the ones whom you quote," she waited.

He raised his glass, "To the woman who completes me, but never competes with me."

They laughed and took a sip. Then heads tilted, and lips met. Sweetly.

"Is it midnight?" she whispered.

"If ya listen real careful, you can hear the church bell when it comes," he paused.

"How do you know?" she wondered.

"This is where I spent the first New Year's Eve after...." he could not complete his sentence.

She stroked the hair at his temple, "After Abigail and Hannah died?"

"After I left the Army," he clarified. "I felt at peace here."

"Thank you for bringing me," she spoke tenderly. "I'm so grateful for the many ways that you tell me you love me."

Sully kissed her again, then recited:

"How many times do I love thee, dear?
Tell me how many thoughts there be
In the atmosphere of a new-fall'n year,
Whose white and sable hours appear
The latest flake of Eternity:
So many times do I love thee, dear."

"Oh, Sully," her heart filled.

"Gonna guess who it was?" he raised an eyebrow.

"Hmmm," she took a sip of champagne. "Emerson?"

"Nope," he took a sip, as well. "Thomas Lovell Beddoes."

"Beddoes," she repeated. "I've never...."

"Shhh," he quickly put his index finger to her lips. "Listen."

In the distance, the tolling church bell could be faintly heard.

"Happy New Year," he caressed her cheek.

"Happy New Year, to you, too," she kissed him. "My dearest, sweet husband."

She began to feel warm.

"Sully?" she drew back.

"Hmm?" he began to kiss her neck.

"Perhaps we should continue this at home," she recommended.

"Home?" he pretended to not understand.

"Since my illness, I...." she was interrupted by him.

"Oh, God, Michaela," his eyes saddened. "I'm sorry. I wasn't even thinkin'."

"No," she assured. "I feel fine, but I don't think I should remain in the cold air very much longer."

"Here," he pulled the blanket higher on her.

Quickly, Sully snapped the reins and urged the horse toward their homestead.

"Good champagne," she continued to sip.

"Don't you go gettin' tipsy on me," he teased.

"Me?" she smiled. "What about you?"

"I reckon neither one o' us is much of a drinker," he joked.

"An occasional glass of champagne for a special occasion is not inopporopriate," she was beginning to slur.

Sully chuckled, "I swear, one glass is all it takes, Michaela Quinn."

"All it takess for what?" she smiled.

"T' get you tipsy," he kissed her again.

"Good thing you're not planning on taking advantage of me, Mr. Ssully," she returned.

"Oh, I'm plannin' on takin' advantage," he reached beneath the blanket to touch her.

"I was hoping you would," she guided his hand.

When they arrived at their homestead, Sully helped Michaela up the steps, then returned to put the horse in the barn for the night. Leaving the door unlocked for Bridget, he went upstairs and quietly checked on the children. Then he entered his bedroom. Michaela, still in her gown, was leaning over the railing of Noah's crib stroking his back.

"They asleep?" he whispered.

"Yes," she turned.

Sully put his hand over to his chest, "Ya take my breath away, lookin' like ya do."

"You're rather a dashing figure yourself in that outfit, Mr. Sully," she edged closer.

"All in white," he kissed the crook of her neck.

Michaela's body tingled at his movements.

"Just like when ya were a bride," he compared.

"Seems like only yesterday," she closed her eyes.

He began to unhook the back of her gown, "I brought the champagne up."

"I thought you said I was already tipsy," she joked.

"Won't hurt t' get ya a little more," he noticed that she had already carried the glasses upstairs. "Looks like you had the same thought."

"Since we imbibe only on special occasions...." she paused. "We shouldn't let it go to waste."

He poured the remainder of the bottle into their crystal glasses. Handing her one, he tipped his against hers until it clinked.

"Another toast," he gazed intently into her eyes. "May we never know a minute of life without the most precious gift of our love."

They took a sip.

"My turn," she ran her finger along his lips. "May we spend every New Year's Eve together, and as in love as we are this moment."

After consuming nearly all of the liquid, Sully took the glasses. Then he resumed his task of sliding her gown past her breasts, waist and hips.

"You gettin' any warmer?" he grinned.

She reached up to undo his tie, "I'm melting, Mr. Sully."

"Umm," he closed his eyes to savor the kisses she trailed across his chest as she unbuttoned his shirt. "I guess wearin' these fancy clothes is payin' off then."

Clad only in her undergarments, Michaela shivered slightly. Sully drew her closer to his bare chest, kissing the lobe of her ear.

When Bridget reached the top floor of the homestead, she heard the muffled voices of Michaela and Sully. Smiling to herself, she suspected what was ensuing behind their closed door. Then she entered her bedroom and began to prepare for bed.

"Bridget's home," Sully had heard.

"I think Loren is becoming quite smitten with her," Michaela spoke low.

"Smitten," he smiled. "That describe how you feel about me?"

"There are no words to adequately describe how I feel about you," she cupped his cheek in her hand.

Sully turned his head to kiss her palm. Then he guided her toward their bed. At that moment, Annie began to stir.

"Shhh," Sully held his finger to his lips. "Maybe she'll go back t' sleep."

The baby persisted.

"I'll check," he offered.

He went to the cribs and saw that Annie was awake. Tenderly, he lifted his daughter and raised her to kiss her forehead.

"Pa," the baby smiled.

"Shhh," he whispered. "Your Ma an' me are tryin' t' have a little romance, my little darlin'."

"Sully!" Michaela's cheeks flushed.

"Pa-Pa," she repeated.

"Michaela," he directed. "Put the pillows down by the fireplace.

"Why?" she gathered them.

"Come on," he knelt down near the hearth with Annie. "Join us."

Laying back on the pillows, he held his daughter above his head and lowered her for a kiss.

The little girl giggled and reached for his nose.

"I think Papa might be stirring you up rather than settling you down," Michaela joined them on the floor.

"Cheyenne," Sully spoke his daughter's name as if singing.

"Pa," she reached again for his nose.

After several up and down trips, Sully lowered her to rest on his chest. Kissing the top of the baby's head, he lovingly rubbed her back.

Michaela watched in awe with a heart full of love for her husband, as he lulled the baby to sleep.

"You do have a way about you," she pulled a lock of his hair from his face.

"I'll put her in her crib now," Sully tiptoed to the baby's bed. "Sleep now, Annie. Love you."

He rejoined his wife on the floor. Michaela wiped a tear from her cheek.

"What's this?" he noticed.

"It's what you do to me," she smiled.

"Make ya cry?" he teased.

"Make me love," she turned it around.

He slid closer to her allowing her scent to consume his senses, "Roll over ont' your stomach."

She complied, and he began to massage her back and shoulders. Each touch of his hand warmed her.

Leaning near her ear, he whispered, "There was a time when you'd ask why."

"Why what?" she closed her eyes and sighed.

"Why I wanted ya t' roll over ont' your stomach," he began to pull down her underdrawers slightly.

"I suppose I...." she caught her breath as he kissed the creamy skin just above the base of her spine.

Unable to control a soft moan, she felt unimaginable sensations awakening.

"Mmm?" he tenderly rolled her onto her back to continue his kisses along her abdomen.

She clasped the sides of his face, "Sully...."

The timbre of her voice aroused him further. He gently stroked the side of her face, his eyes reflecting a profound connection.

"Sometimes...." he paused.

"What?" she ran her fingers down his chest lightly.

He gulped, "Sometimes, late at night, when I'm worried 'bout somethin' or feelin' overwhelmed by my work or even my own mortality.... I reach out an' touch you."

"You do?" she smiled.

"It calms me, Michaela," he ran his finger along the upper edge of her camisole. "Fills me with peace. Assures me that everythin' all right."

"You have that same effect on me," she confessed. "In fact, sometimes, it's simply the sound of your voice."

He began to slip the straps of her camisole from her shoulders to kiss her breasts. Michaela's pulse raced as her body reacted to his gesture. No longer able to control their physical urges, they succumbed to the burning desire of their hearts. Each took special care to please the other until rising higher and higher, they were consumed by the flames of their passion.

Michaela clung to her husband as if to release him would be to lose a part of herself. Sully's comforting touches and kisses conveyed the powerful satisfaction that he felt.

"I love you," she caressed the hair at the base of his neck.

"I love you, too," he smiled. "Happy New Year."

"It will be," she nodded. "I know it."

************
Chapter 4
************

"I make sleigh go, Papa?" Josef requested as they glided along toward town.

"Sure," Sully positioned his son on his lap to hold the reins.

"Go fast, Joey," Katie encouraged.

"Not fast, Kates," Sully explained. "Don't wanna make the horse work too hard."

"I like this," Josef's face beamed.

"Me, too," Katie agreed.

When they reached the halfway point toward town, Sully patted his son, "Give your sister a turn now, Joe."

"No," Josef held firmly.

"Josef," Sully's tone changed.

The little boy recognized the different way his father spoke to him and handed the reins to his sister.

"Good boy," Sully kissed the top of his son's head.

"When am I gonna learn t' ride a horse, Poppy?" Katie inquired.

"Soon as you're old enough," he responded.

"Bran said he was eight when he got Taffy," she noted.

"He was ten," Sully corrected.

Both children became silent.

Sully sighed, "I reckon this was a bad idea, huh?"

"Why do ya think that?" Katie looked up at him.

The father rubbed his lower lip, "I figured this ride would make us think about all we got, not all we want."

"I think I got lots," Josef said.

"Like what?" Sully asked.

"Buckskins," the little boy giggled.

"Family," Katie pondered.

"An' Mama's wich," Josef pointed out.

"Bein' rich don't mean just money, Joe," Sully advised.

"She doesn't even have t' work if she doesn't want to," Katie stated.

"Your Ma loves bein' a doctor," Sully remarked. "She'd do that no matter how much money she had."

"What's she gonna do with all that money, Poppy?" Katie questioned.

"Build a hospital for starters," he told them. "Use it t' help other folks.... whatever she wants."

"Make our house big?" Josef inquired.

"That's my job, Joe," Sully noted. "Takin' care o' our family."

Katie figured, "So Mama takes care o' other people, an' you take care o' us?"

"In a way," Sully chuckled. "But your Ma takes care o' us in a lot o' ways, too. Don't she?"

"Yep," Josef nodded. "She hold an' kiss us."

"Right," Sully agreed.

"She hold an' kiss you, Papa?" Josef was curious.

"Oh, yea," Sully smiled.

************

"Where you goin', Robert E?" Grace observed his getting dressed.

"Over t' the Livery," he was gruff. "Where else would I be goin'?"

"What's the rush?" she questioned.

"Sully's bringing back the sleigh," he headed for the door.

Grace sighed and shook her head. This was not working out as she had hoped.

************

As Michaela set the table for their New Year's dinner, her mind drifted back to the previous night.... the wondrous sensations that she and Sully had experienced as they made love. Her cheeks flushed at the recollection of the champagne, the kisses, and....

"Dr. Mike?" Bridget's roused her from her reverie. "You all right, lass?"

"Yes," she adjusted a fork on the table. "Why do you ask?"

"Ya seemed lost in thought," the nanny smiled.

"I was, rather...." she hesitated.

"It was a right nice dance last night, wasn't it?" Bridget commented.

"Yes," Michaela agreed.

"That husband o' yours is a fine man," she noted.

Michaela did not contain her smile, "Yes, he is."

"A good dancer, too," the nanny chuckled.

"Well...." Michaela paused. "The truth is, I usually don't notice how he dances."

"Oh?" Bridget was curious. "Why's that?"

"When we're together, I'm often.... distracted," she blushed.

Bridget smiled, "Loren knows his way around the dance floor pretty well, too."

"You and he...." Michaela broached the subject.

"We have a nice time t'gether, lass," she winked. "Nothin' more."

"He's been through some difficult times where his heart is concerned," Michaela confided. "He and my late sister Marjorie were quite.... close."

"We enjoy each other's company, Dr. Mike," Bridget shrugged. "I expect nothin' more."

"You're entitled to more," Michaela encouraged.

"Would ya be doin' some matchmakin' now?" she perceived.

"I want you to be happy," Michaela stated.

"I am happy," Bridget returned. "I feel like I got a family here."

"You do," she embraced her.

They heard Wolf whimper. When Michaela turned, she saw Annie crawling atop the animal and sticking her finger in his eye.

"Sweetheart," Michaela went to her daughter. Guiding her back onto the blanket, she kissed her, "We don't do that with Wolf."

Sitting down where her children played, she smiled at the twins, "Look at you, Noah!"

The little boy was rolling back and forth from side to side.

"Bah," he put his finger in his mouth.

"I'll finish gettin' things ready," Bridget smiled at the scene. "You keep an' eye on the wee ones."

Michaela lifted the babies, "They're not so wee anymore."

************

Sully patted his friend on the back, "How ya feel this mornin', Robert E?"

"I feel okay," he shrugged as he helped the children from the sleigh.

Sully was puzzled, "Just okay? You an' Grace do anythin' special last night?"

"Went t' bed early," the blacksmith answered. "We don't fight as much that way."

"Fight?" Katie had heard.

"We argue sometimes 'cause she's so stubborn," Robert E informed the little girl.

"Seems like ya oughta be celebratin'," Sully hinted.

"New Year's just another day t' me," he answered.

Sully handed him some coins, "This cover the sleigh?"

"Keep your money," Robert E returned it. "I hope you an' Dr. Mike got good use of the sleigh."

"Oh, we did," Sully grinned.

"Must be nice," the blacksmith lamented. "Havin' a romantic evenin' with your wife."

"I thought you an' Grace might...." he decided to drop the subject. "Well, much obliged for the sleigh."

"Got your horse ready," Robert E motioned. "Get on up an' I'll hand ya the children."

"Robert E....." Sully contemplated. "If you an Grace don't have plans, why don't ya join us for supper t'day?"

"Thanks," he nodded. "I'll ask the woman."

************

Katie had her arms around her father's waist and Josef sat in the saddle in front of Sully as they made their way back to the homestead.

"We wide t'morrow?" Josef looked up.

"I can't, Joe," Sully held him firmly. "I gotta go away for a while."

"We come?" the little boy implored.

"Not this time," the father replied.

"I don't like it when ya go away," Katie voiced.

"I don't either, sweet girl," he acknowledged. "But I sure do love comin' home."

"Papa, we get hog?" Josef requested.

"Maybe," he pondered. "You want it for a pet?"

"No, for pwospety," the little boy explained.

"Property?" Sully attempt to clarify.

"Prosperity," Katie specified. "A hog's a symbol o' wealth."

"Don't need t' show you're wealthy," the father advised. "Just makes other folks jealous."

"Please we get hog?" Josef begged.

"I'll talk it over with your Ma," Sully said.

"But this not for other folk," Josef asserted. "This for us. YOU take care us, Papa."

"Your Ma an' me make decisions t'gether when something affects our family," Sully explained.

Josef scratched his head, "I ask Mama 'gain."

"You already asked her?" he spotted the homestead ahead. "What did she say?"

"She said riches don't come from money," Katie repeated.

"Good answer," Sully pulled the horse to a stop.

************

"Cloud Dancin'," Dorothy glanced out the train window at the passing landscape. "What d' ya know about this Pratt fella?"

"I have heard much," he stated. "Richard Henry Pratt was a captain in the 10th Cavalry. He led a group of Buffalo Soldiers."

"He fought Indians?" she was disgusted.

The Cheyenne detailed, "He participated in the efforts to contain Indians on the reservations. But he knew why my people wanted to flee. As one who distributed supplies, he filed many reports to the Great Chief in Washington about the poor food and living conditions."

"An' did the government listen?" she began to write down his description.

"No," he shook his head. "That is why Pratt developed a hatred for the Bureau of Indian Affairs."

"But as an officer, he had t' follow orders," she reasoned.

"Four years ago, many of my people were gathered, along with Kiowa, Comanche and Caddo. They were shackled and taken to a Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida," he resumed. "There, they were held for ransom."

"Ransom?" Dorothy questioned.

"For the good behavior of their fellow Indians," he sadly noted. "And do you know who their jailer was?"

"Pratt?" she assumed.

"Yes," he nodded. "When they arrived, Pratt removed the shackles, cut their hair and made them wear the white man's army uniform."

"So, they became soldiers?" she wondered.

"But they did not fight," he explained. "They learned to drill."

"How ironic," she observed.

"There were some local women who came to the prison," he related. "They taught the prisoners how to read in return for archery lessons. The Indians were given paper and colored pencils to illustrate their days as hunters of the buffalo, and they sold trinkets which they made. A few became trusted enough to leave the prison and find work in the community."

"So how did Pratt go from runnin' a prison t' tryin' t' open a school?" Dorothy wondered.

"There are many wealthy people who come to St. Augustine to.... what is the word... vacation," he described. "They learned of Pratt's efforts to make the Indians like the white man. Now, it is said that he hopes to begin their conversion at an earlier age. There are people who call themselves Quakers and other Christian missionaries who hope to civilize the Indians, and all of these groups are giving their support to his idea of assimilation."

"So, the Indian loses his own culture to become a white man," Dorothy concluded.

"Yes," he admitted.

"Now he wants to take the Indian children," she looked up sympathetically. "Do you think you can talk the chiefs out of it?"

"I don't know that I want to urge them toward that path," he surprised her.

"But.... what about your culture, your language...." she stopped.

"What about our survival?" he looked at her with reddened eyes. "I will hear what Pratt has to say."

************

Robert E approached his wife at the Cafe. She appeared too busy to interrupt, but he steeled himself for her reaction and went to her.

"What you want, Robert E?" she wiped her hands on her apron.

"Thought maybe we could go out t' Dr. Mike an' Sully's for supper," he mentioned.

"They got enough people t' feed without us," she dismissed the idea.

"Two more won't matter," he reasoned. "Sully asked us."

"You wanna go?" she tilted her head.

"Yea," he asserted.

"All right," she consented.

************

Hank, Sully and Matthew met in the young man's office to discuss their upcoming search for Enid McBain. The poster of his likeness had arrived with some information from his family.

"Where was he last seen?" Sully folded his arms.

"A bar in Denver," Hank stated. "Same bar where the murder took place. So I figure that's our best starting point."

"No," Sully disagreed. "We best start in Castle Rock. Question his family. Get somethin' he wore so Wolf can track the scent."

"What if we split up?" Matthew offered. "That could save time. Hank, you ask around the bar in Denver. Sully an' me will go t' Castle Rock. Then we'll meet back here later t'morrow."

"Sounds good," Hank agreed. "We take the nine o'clock train in the mornin', then?"

Sully nodded, then patted his son's back, "Dinner's ready soon. See ya at the homestead."

"Okay," the young man smiled.

************

Michaela had the babies on her bed, drying them from their bath. Below, she could hear Bridget teaching Katie and Josef "Auld Lang Syne." She smiled at their efforts.

Noah and Annie gurgled and giggled at their mother as she made faces.

"So sweet and clean," she diapered Annie. "Mama's beautiful baby girl."

"Ma-ma-ma-ma," the child reached for her mother's lips.

Noah played with his toes, merrily content to remain unclothed while his mother dressed his sister.

"Now, can you sit still while I put your brother's diaper on him?" Michaela smiled at her daughter.

"A-bab," Annie put her finger in her mouth.

Before Michaela could diaper her son, he relieved himself with a fountain into the air.

"Noah!" Michaela quickly covered him. Then she saw the resulting spot on her blouse and sighed, "Oh, no."

"Bah!" he shouted.

"I suppose I should have diapered you first," she wiped him off.

"Bridget said ya might need some help," Sully entered the room.

"Your son," she pointed to the large spot of moisture on her clothing.

Sully chuckled, "I'll finish with him while ya change."

"Pa-pa-pa," Annie responded to her father's presence.

Sully playfully leaned over to kiss her belly, "How's my little darlin'?"

Annie excitedly kicked her legs. In short order, Sully had Noah diapered, and the twins began to giggle and coo side by side on the bed. When he turned to look at Michaela, she was standing in her camisole attempting to decide which blouse to wear. He smiled, knowing that it would take her several minutes.

He kissed his children and sat them together in Annie's crib. Then he quietly went to the door to close it. He came to his wife and wrapped his arms around her waist.

She turned up the corner of her mouth and leaned back against his chest.

Sully kissed her neck, "Make up your mind yet?"

"No," she tingled.

He began to caress her form, "Don't need t' change on my account."

She caught her breath, "Sully!"

"Mmm?" he continued his kisses as he pivoted her around to face him.

"We can't," she had difficulty resisting.

"Can't what?" he was having an effect.

"We.... we have company due.... the children.... Bridget...." she became more breathless with each phrase.

"I told them we might take a nap before supper," his gaze intensified.

"You did?" she smiled.

"Yep," he kissed the sides of her mouth. "Said we were up late last night an' might need t' refresh ourselves."

"It appears that you've thought of everything," she toyed with the hair at his temples.

"What I been thinkin' about is last night," he guided her to the bed.

"As have I," she whispered.

"Michaela," his tone was raspy. "I... I need ya."

"I need you, too," she felt her heart skip a beat.

************
Chapter 5
************

"Where Mama an' Papa?" Josef asked Bridget.

She suspected, "They're.... relaxin'."

"I go sing that song for 'em," he headed for the steps.

"Just a minute, boy-oh," she diverted him. "When your Ma an' Pa are relaxin', they need t' be alone."

He challenged, "They not 'lone. Noah an' Annie are...."

"Josef," Brian called from the living room. "Katie's beatin' me at checkers. How 'bout some help?"

The little boy exhaled, "That Bran. I gotta help him."

She chuckled at the little one as he scampered into the next room. Then the nanny raised her eyes to look up, sensing with a gleam in her eye what was transpiring above them.

************

Situated on their bed, Sully kissed the inside of Michaela's arm, then continued to caress all of the places she found pleasing. Unable to resist her attraction, she rolled atop him and began to lightly kiss his neck and chest. Then she sensed his growing need.

"Are you impatient, Mr. Sully?" she teased.

His breathing was rapid, "You could say that."

She repositioned herself to his relief. Their bodies began to move and merge together. With rhythmic motion and intense emotion, they shared their love as fully as two human beings can. So lost in the connection of their hearts were they, the outside world ceased to exist for those climactic moments. Then, as they began to calm, they continued the light caresses of love.

"Sully," she stroked his chest.

"Mmm?" he kissed the top of her head.

"We're so.... incredible together," she said.

He sighed, "You're everythin' t' me, Michaela."

"Do you think we're.... normal?" she pondered.

"Nope," he chuckled.

"No?" she lifted up to gaze into his eyes.

"Incredible ain't normal," he smiled.

They laughed. Then, pulling back a strand of her hair from her face, Sully was moved to quote:

"All my life shall reach its hands
Of lofty longing toward thy face,
And be as one who speechless stands
In rapture at some perfect grace!
My love, my hope, my all shall be
To look to heaven and look to thee!"

"How you move me," she felt a tear trickle down her cheek. "Was that Wordsworth?"

"William Winter," he noted.

"Ba-bab," Noah could be heard.

"Can you believe our little ones are eight months old today?" she began to sit up.

He drew her back into his arms, "Don't leave me."

"I'll never leave you," she ran her finger along his jaw.

"I mean, just now," he kissed her.

"Perhaps a few more minutes," she closed her eyes and rested against his shoulder.

"Josef said he asked ya if we could get a hog," Sully brought up their son's inquiry.

She laughed, "What do you think?"

"I wanna make sure Katie an' him don't see it as a symbol o' wealth," he noted.

"If they had to feed it, take care of it, we could turn it into a lesson of responsibility for them," she proposed.

"Sounds good," he agreed. "I'll ask around later. See if anyone has any sows ready t' farrow this spring. I'll need t' build it a shed. Teach the kids what t' feed it."

"I imagine they will become attached to it," she speculated.

He chuckled, "Name it.... wanna bring it in the house...."

"Ma-ma-ma-ma," Annie murmured.

Michaela glanced toward the crib, "Our children are anxious to see us up, Mr. Sully."

"Our children...." he considered the notion. "Remember when we weren't sure we could even have a baby?"

"I remember," she stroked his arm.

"Guess we made up for lost time," he quipped.

"And later this year, Grace and Robert E will welcome their little one," she smiled.

"Grace ain't told Robert E she's pregnant yet," he stated.

"How do you know?" she questioned.

"When we took the sleigh back this mornin'..... he didn't say anythin'.... didn't act happy," Sully informed her.

"Perhaps Grace is waiting for just the right moment," Michaela speculated.

"I remember each right moment for us," his voice choked slightly.

"You do?" she grinned.

"Yep," he nodded. "With Katie, it was at the Thanksgivin' celebration. Ya told me about Josef when we went t' Washington for President Grant's daughter's weddin'. An' with the twins, it was after I was sick. I remember ya wrote it on the leaf-shaped paper an' sent it down t' me from the bedroom window."

"Grace must be extra careful with this pregnancy," Michaela informed him.

"Everythin's okay, isn't it?" he hoped.

"Yes," she answered. "But it's taken her so long to conceive, and she already had one miscarriage."

"Ya think her drinkin' might have caused it?" he speculated.

"She had stopped drinking by the time she became pregnant," Michaela pointed out. "But.... I don't know. Perhaps there were some residual effects. At any rate, she should eat right and most of all avoid stress."

"Speakin' of eatin' right," he said. "I asked 'em t' join us for supper t'day."

"I'd better inform Bridget then," she started to rise.

"Michaela," Sully kissed her hand. "I love you."

"And I adore you," she returned.

************

"Where Lil?" Josef looked around the table at family and friends.

"Lily's with her Pa in Manitou," Matthew smiled at his little brother.

"I miss her," the little boy sighed.

"Me, too," Matthew grinned. "But she'll be back in a day or two."

"We not have good luck year," Josef announced.

"And why is that, Sweetheart?" Michaela asked her son.

"'Cause Misser Bway visit us," the little boy informed them.

"Josef!" Michaela was embarrassed.

Bridget burst forth with a hardy laugh.

"Please don't encourage his being rude, Bridget," Michaela's brow wrinkled. "Josef, apologize to Mr. Bray."

"Sorry," the little boy was uncertain what he had done.

"Dr. Mike," Bridget's cheeks were rosy. "I told him if the first person t' visit the house on New Year's Day had dark hair, you'd have good luck."

"Maybe I should've dyed my hair like I done before," Loren winked.

"I remember that," Brian chuckled.

"You die hair?" Josef's eyes widened.

"Yep," Loren wiped his mouth.

"Ya bury it?" the little boy wondered.

Again, those assembled at the table laughed. All except for Grace and Robert E. They sat and ate in silence.

"Your black-eyed peas are delicious, Grace," Michaela attempted to include her.

"Thanks, Dr. Mike," she politely replied.

"Think ya might be able to help the boys an' me on the house this spring, Robert E?" Sully asked.

"Sure," his friend responded. "What ya got in mind?"

"Gonna add on," Sully informed him.

Katie spoke up excitedly, "We're gonna get more bedrooms an' an office for Mama."

"Thought I'd put in an indoor bathroom or two," Sully added.

"Must be nice t' have all that money," Grace said.

"We ain't usin' Michaela's money for the house," Sully tensed.

Michaela placed her hand lightly on her husband's, "You should see the blueprints for the hospital. We're going to have a fine facility. I'm going to work with a group of nuns from Denver, who....."

"What ya name it, Mama?" Josef interrupted.

"It's not polite to speak out when someone else is talking, Josef," she spoke low to her son.

"Workin' with nuns on your hospital?" Loren turned up his nose. "It ain't gonna be for Catholics, is it?"

"What's wrong with Catholics?" Bridget became defensive.

"They got that there Pope tells 'em what t' do; that's what," he asserted.

"There are many Catholics in Colorado, Loren," Michaela stated. "They are entitled to hospital care the same as anyone else."

"Injuns, too, I suppose," he rolled his eyes.

"Don't ya like Indians, Mr. Bray?" Katie looked up at him.

Before answering, the older man glanced toward Sully.

"Some's all right, I guess," he softened his tone.

"Ya know, I'm a Catholic, Loren," Bridget acknowledged.

"As is Teresa Slicker," Michaela added. "And so was my mother."

"Gwanma Cathic?" Josef sat up straighter.

"Yes, she was," Michaela smiled.

"Then why ain't you?" Loren questioned.

"I was raised to believe that we should tolerate the religious beliefs of others," Michaela said. "And that's how my children will be raised. I want them to have a respect for...."

"Awe, there ya go again," Loren shook his head.

"Not plite, Misser Bway," Josef tapped his arm. "Mama's talkin'."

"Sorry," the older man apologized. Then he changed the subject, "Hank says Matthew an' Sully's goin' with him t'morrow t' look for that fella that disappeared."

"Poppy's good at findin' people," Katie smiled at her father.

"Who's missin'?" Robert E inquired.

"Name's Enid McBain," Matthew identified. "He's the man who told the authorities that he witnessed my client commit murder, after my client was acquitted."

Grace fidgeted with her napkin.

"Would you like some pie?" Michaela offered to her friend.

"No, thanks," she smiled uncomfortably.

"Ah.... do you think that you could help me in the kitchen with something," Michaela requested of Grace.

"Sure," she consented.

The two women excused themselves and rounded the corner to talk in private.

"Are you all right?" Michaela placed her hand on Grace's shoulder.

"Not really," Grace sighed. "I ain't told Robert E yet, an' the way we been gettin' on, I ain't sure I'm gonna."

"Grace," Michaela comforted. "This is his child, too. The two of you should be going through this wonderful experience together."

"He acts like he don't care about me no more, Dr. Mike," the woman expressed her fears.

"Of course he cares about you," Michaela assured. "Talk to him."

"He won't talk," she affirmed. "He thinks up every excuse t' be away from me."

Michaela clasped her hands, "Tell him about the baby. I promise that.... well, things will be very different."

"You an' Sully ever go through somethin' like this?" Grace wondered.

"We've been through times when we didn't communicate or when we misunderstood one another," she confessed. "But we worked through those times because we love each other."

Grace exhaled, "Men. How on earth d' we live with 'em?"

Michaela smiled, "I can't imagine life without Sully."

"I know ya nearly lost him a few times," she noted.

"And it makes all of the little things we've argued about seem quite unimportant," Michaela counseled. "When I watch him with our children, it fills me with such love. Oh, Grace, when Robert E holds this little one...."

"You ready t' go, woman?" Robert E peered around the corner of the fireplace.

She squeezed Michaela's hands, "I'm ready."

Michaela embraced her and whispered, "Tell him."

"I'll try," Grace wiped a tear.

************

Sully concluded the bedtime story for Katie and Josef.

Then he smiled, "Your Ma an' me decided. We're gonna get ya a pig."

"Pig?" Josef frowned. "We want hog, Papa."

"A pig is a baby hog, Joe," Sully stated.

"Good," he nodded. "Now we be wich."

"Josef," Michaela took her son's hand. "Your Daddy and I want you children to understand that this is not something we're doing to make others think we're rich. We're doing it so that you may learn the responsibility of raising an animal."

"That's right," Sully added. "You're gonna feed it, make sure it has water. Be responsible for takin' care of it."

"Sounds like hard work," Katie surmised.

"It is work when an animal depends on ya," Sully agreed. "Just like how we take care o' the cow, the chickens an' the horses."

"So we not wich," Josef sighed.

"Josef," Michaela's challenged. "Why do you think it's so important to be rich?"

He shrugged, "I don' know. Miss Bwidget say it."

"I believe that what she meant is that.... sometimes people who have very little, aspire.... hope.... for more," Michaela attempted to explain. "So, in some cultures, having a possession such as a hog, which can be rather expensive for them to raise, is considered a sign of wealth. It means that their life has improved. But we're not like that, Sweetheart. We have been blessed with a great deal. We have ample food, a beautiful home and most importantly, love."

Sully looked at his children, "Do ya understand now?"

Katie nodded, but Josef silently pondered his mother's explanation.

"Joe?" Sully eyed him. "Ya got any questions?"

The little boy rubbed his upper lip, reminiscent of Sully's gesture, "No."

"Ya sure?" Sully suspected otherwise.

"Uh huh," the little boy was growing sleepy.

"Good," Sully carried him to his bed.

"Say your prayers," Michaela encouraged.

The children recited their prayers and asked blessings upon their family. Last, Katie offered thanks for the little pig who was to soon join their household.

************

"Sully?" Michaela began to brush her hair. "Do you think we're spoiling the children?"

He looked up from his position on the bed where he was playing with the twins.

"Why ya ask?" he questioned.

"We give them everything," she noted.

"Michaela," he kissed the top of Annie's head. "I had nothin' when I was a kid. I wanna give our children everythin' I never had. But.... I want 'em t' appreciate it, too. Not take it for granted."

"I want that, too," she agreed.

"Ya think we shouldn't get 'em the pig?" he wondered.

"No," she shook her head. "I believe it will be a good experience for them."

"What's troublin' ya?" he sensed.

"Hearing them talk about wealth...." she paused. "I never want them to believe it's the true measure of a person."

"They won't," he pledged. "We'll teach 'em."

"Sometimes I fear they learn to the contrary from their friends," she set the brush down and joined him.

Sully lifted Noah and handed him to his mother, "This little boy's asleep, Mama."

Michaela kissed her son's forehead and smiled. Carrying him to his crib, she tenderly placed him on his belly.

"What about Annie?" she returned.

"Still awake," he caressed the top of his daughter's head. "I think her hair's finally startin' t' grow."

Michaela leaned down to kiss the baby, "Just like Katie at that age."

Sully remarked, "An' Noah's got Joe's dark hair."

Michaela pulled back the covers and climbed into bed. Soon, Sully noticed that Annie had drifted off. He lay her in her crib. Then he undressed and joined his wife beneath the sheet.

"You sleepy?" he kissed her bare shoulder.

"Somewhat," she replied pensively.

He ran his finger along her jaw line, "Tell me what's botherin' ya. It ain't just about the kids."

************
Chapter 6
************

"Katie," Josef whispered. "I wake."

"Shhh," she rolled over. "Go back t' sleep."

"I thinkin'," he sat up.

She sighed, "What about?"

"What's Cathic?" he inquired.

"Catholic?" she repeated.

"Miss Bwidget say she Cathic," he reminded. "An' Mama say Gwan'ma an' Mrs. Slicker, too."

She pondered it, "I think it means ya talk different in church."

"Huh?" he was puzzled.

"When Gran'ma died, we went t' church," she recounted her Boston experience. "The Reverend talked different. I couldn't understand anythin' he said."

"Miss Bwidget talk diff'rent," he noted.

"Sorta," she nodded. "Mrs. Slicker, too."

"But...." he thought some more. "Not Gwan'ma."

"Maybe 'cause she was old, she learned t' talk right," Katie assumed.

"You glad we get pig?" he questioned.

"Uh huh," she said. "Are you?"

"Oh, yea," he smiled.

"'Night, Joey," she whispered.

"'Night," he seemed satisfied.

************

"Michaela," Sully encouraged. "What's botherin' ya?"

She was silent.

He stroked her arm, "Roll over an' let me see your face."

She complied, and it was then that he saw the tear streaming down her cheek.

He touched the moisture, "Maybe I can help."

She raised his hand to her lips, "I was thinking."

"'Bout what?" he encouraged.

"Grace and Robert E," she came out with it. "You were right. She hasn't told him about being pregnant, and I'm not certain that she's going to."

"He's still gonna find out," Sully joked. "That's somethin' she can't hide for long."

"They've been uncommunicative with one another," she explained. "And they're missing out on such an incredible experience.... sharing the growth of the baby inside of her."

He slid his hand down to caress her abdomen. Then he leaned forward to kiss her.

"Michaela," he spoke low. "She'll tell him."

"You seem rather sure," she commented.

"I am," he smiled.

"How?" she questioned.

"'Cause he loves her.... an' she loves him," he answered simply. "An' when a man an' woman love each other, they'll get around t' talkin'."

"They've waited so long, wanted this so much," she sighed. "And now, they're wasting such precious time. Sully, do you think we...." she hesitated.

"Us.... meddle?" he read her mind.

"It wouldn't be meddling," she insisted. "Simply presenting them with the opportunity to communicate."

"Big words still sound like meddlin' t' me," he smiled.

She sighed in frustration.

"Hey," he guided her to look at him again. "Trust me. She'll tell him."

"What if she doesn't?" Michaela posed the question.

"Tell ya what," he said. "If she don't say somethin' in.... a week, then you an' me will try t' get 'em t'gether."

"Meddle?" she raised an eyebrow.

"Help 'em communicate," he clarified.

"Agreed," she offered her hand for him to shake.

He raised it to his lips and began to kiss her fingers. Michaela instantly felt her body react to his movements. She caressed the hair at his temples. Sully closed his eyes, savoring the gentle massage of her healing hands.

"Thank you, Michaela," he smiled.

"For what?" she kissed his forehead.

"For everythin' that means anythin' t' me," he slid his arm beneath her shoulders.

She began to kiss him more earnestly. Sully felt his passions rise. He cupped his hand to the side of her head and spoke the words of a poet:

"Then come, thou fairest of the fair,
Those wonted smiles, O let me share;
And by thy beauteous self I swear,
No love but thine my heart shall know."

"Mr. Sully," she spoke in a whisper. "Your words never fail to move me."

"Not my words," he noted. "That was Robert Burns."

"When spoken by your lips and coming from your heart, it's your words," she distinguished.

She looped her leg over his and pivoted in his arms, "Would you like to make love?"

"Michaela!" he feigned surprise. "I'm shocked at ya."

"Byron Sully," she patted his side. "I would hate to shock you. So.... I'll just slide over here to my side of the bed and say goodnight."

"Michaela," he became contrite for teasing her.

She did not budge.

"Mmmmichaela," he kissed her neck.

She squirmed, "No. I don't want to shock you."

"What about my words movin' ya?" he ran his hand down her thigh.

She tingled, but remained steadfast.

"Fine," he pulled back. "If you don't wanna...."

"Giving up so easily?" she looked over her shoulder at him.

"I only make love t' women who want me," he folded his arms.

"Women?" she bantered. "You'd better make love to only one woman, Byron Sully!"

"Who'd that be?" he raised an eyebrow.

"Me," she pointed to herself.

"You tellin' me who I can love?" he pretended to protest.

"I most certainly am," she asserted.

"Why should I listen t' you?" he tilted his head.

"Because," she offered.

"Because why?" he continued.

"Because.... I love you," her tone softened. "And my heart would break if you ever.... ever gave your love to another."

He embraced her fully, protectively, "Then ya got nothin' t' worry about. There's no woman on this earth could take me away from you."

"I adore you," she smiled.

"Even when I tease ya?" he grinned.

She chuckled, "I was never one for jokes growing up."

"No!" he pretended to be surprised.

She traced the line of his jaw, "You've enabled me to become many things I never thought I could be, Mr. Sully. A wife.... a mother...."

"A lover," he whispered.

"I must confess, I never permitted myself to think of myself in.... that way," she blushed.

"Remember when I told ya you're good at kissin'?" he pulled her closer.

"Yes," she nodded. "In front of the Reverend."

"I'll let ya in on a little secret," he spoke low near her ear. "Not only are ya real good at kissin', you're real good at.... lovin'."

"You.... bring out something in me," she said.

"That somethin's called passion," he noted. "You're a very passionate woman, Michaela. An' I'm the beneficiary."

"You make me feel incredibly loved and secure," she remarked.

"That's how I feel, too," he responded.

"Things have gone so right for us, Sully," she thought.

"Ya know, I look at men who got responsibilities of a wife an' kids, an' it scares 'em," he gazed into her eyes. "They wanna run, turn t' drink or worse."

"I know," she agreed.

"But with us, havin' you an' our children t' come home to, there's nothin' I want more than t' hurry back when I'm away," he confessed. "That's what I want ya t' think about when I leave t'morrow."

"You'll be careful?" she hoped.

"Yep," he pledged. "An' I'll watch out for Matthew."

"Good," she kissed his neck.

"Mmmmichaela," his pulse raced.

"Mmm?" she knew.

"Would you like t' make love?" he repeated her question.

"Don't be shocked...." she returned his kiss. "But.... yes."

************

"Robert E," Grace nudged her husband.

"Wha--?" he opened his eyes.

"I thought I heard somethin'," she whispered. "Ya better check."

Reluctantly, he rose from the bed and drew on his trousers. He lifted his nearby rifle and left the bedroom. Grace nervously fidgeted with the blanket edge listening for any sounds.

Robert E returned, "Nothin' but a stray dog lookin' for food."

"Oh," she was relieved. "That's good."

"Go back t' sleep," he returned to bed.

"Do ya wanna talk?" she asked.

"Talk?" he frowned. "It's after midnight. You an' me gotta be up early. We'll talk in the mornin'."

"All right," she sighed.

************

Sully awoke before dawn. He quietly slid out of bed and, lighting the lamp, went to the basin to wash his face. He heard cooing from one of the cribs. Turning to look, he saw Noah holding his bunny.

"Hey, No-bo," Sully whispered.

The baby kicked his legs and smiled.

"Go back t' sleep, little fella," he rubbed his belly. "Let your Ma get some rest."

"Bah-ha," Noah showed no sign of sleepiness.

Sully could not resist lifting the baby and holding him close, "I think you need your diaper changed."

"Ba-ba," the baby continued his active movements.

"Come on," Sully began to change him. "Can you say Pa?"

The little boy watched his father's lips and seemed to want to say the word, but without success.

"Pa," Sully reinforced.

"Ooh," Noah kicked his legs.

"All changed," Sully lifted him again and sat in the rocker.

"Bah-bah," the child's voice trailed off as he was lulled by the back and forth motion.

Sully kissed his temple, then returned him to his crib. He drew on his buckskins and pulled out his travel pouch to pack.

"Do you need help?" Michaela squinted.

"Sorry if I woke ya," he apologized. "No, thanks. I don't even know if I'll be gone overnight. We're headed up t' Castle Rock, then meetin' Hank back here. Dependin' on what we learn, we might go lookin' for McBain later t'day or t'morrow."

"I see," she sat up.

He came to the edge of the bed and caressed her cheek, "You goin' in t' the Clinic t'day?"

"Yes," she informed him. "I have a few appointments."

"Gettin' excited about the hospital?" he smiled.

"It's coming together," she nodded. "I'm meeting with Sister Mary Ignatius."

"Good," he kissed her, then rose to continue dressing. "Don't try t' do too much at once."

"I won't," she acknowledged. "If Barrett Morrison's law partner comes while you're away, do you want me to wait for you?"

"Don't have to," he assured. "I trust ya."

"We've already signed the papers that Barrett left," she reminded. "I suppose this is a matter of formality."

"He seemed t' have everythin' in order, accordin' t' Matthew," Sully began to button his shirt.

Michaela pulled back the covers and stood up. Walking to her husband, she completed the task of doing up his shirt.

"I love when ya take care o' me," he grinned.

"And I love taking care of you," she lifted up to kiss him.

He placed his hand provocatively, "Sure did take care o' me last night."

She warmed at his gesture, "Hurry home to us?"

"You know I will," he kissed her.

"Ooodle," it was Annie's voice.

Michaela glanced toward the crib, "A new day dawns, Mr. Sully."

"I'll meet ya downstairs," he smiled. "Have t' milk the cow an' saddle up my horse."

As he began to leave, she took his arm and wrapped it around her waist. Soon, they were enthralled in another kiss.

"I can't seem to have enough of these," she whispered.

"Ya know we ain't newlyweds anymore," he teased.

"In my heart, I am," she ran her hands up and down his sides.

"Me, too," he became serious. "But if I stay here doin' this, we'll never find McBain."

"I know," she rested her head against his chest.

Sully kissed the top of her head, "See ya downstairs."

"All right," she smiled.

************

"Mornin', Bridget," Sully smiled as he descended the steps. "Didn't expect t' see you up yet."

"I couldn't sleep, lad," she reached for a plate. "What would ya like for breakfast?"

"Why couldn't ya sleep?" his brow wrinkled.

"No reason really," she was unconvincing.

"Hey," Sully placed his hand on her shoulder. "Somethin' on your mind?"

"I...." she tried to work up the courage. "I was thinkin' about Loren."

"What about him?" Sully poured himself a cup of coffee.

"His feelin's about Catholics," she finally revealed.

"Why don't ya talk t' him about it?" he counseled.

"Politics and religion," she chuckled. "Two topics sure as any t' avoid."

"I don't know," he winked. "I got a wife who loves t' debate folks about 'em."

"Dr. Mike can hold her own on any topic, I dare say," the nanny commented.

"Bridget," Sully's blue eyes captured her attention. "You can either talk it over with Loren or always wonder what if...."

"Mornin', Pa, Bridget," Brian descended the steps.

"Hey, Brian," Sully smiled.

"Ya looked tired, lad," Bridget commented.

"I am," Brian rubbed his eyes. "Couldn't sleep."

"You either?" the nanny folded her arms.

"Why's that, Brian?" Sully asked.

"Just thinkin'," he was vague.

"Sit down, lad," the nanny directed him. "I'll fix ya breakfast."

"I'm goin' out t' the barn," Sully drew on his coat.

As he left them, Bridget turned to the young man, "Bet I can guess what ya been thinkin' about."

He eyed her, "What?"

"A young lady," she returned.

"How'd ya know?" Brian was amazed.

"Ya got that look," she chuckled. "Your brother's had it for weeks."

"That's part of the problem," he was barely audible.

"What?" she looked up from her skillet.

"Nothin'," Brian dismissed it.

************
Chapter 7
************

Cloud Dancing and Dorothy sat with Red Cloud, American Horse, Young-Man-Afraid-of-His-Horses and several other tribal leaders of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Opposite them was Richard Henry Pratt and a white woman.

The woman spoke first, "I am Miss Mather, Mr. Pratt's interpreter."

"I speak the white man's language," Cloud Dancing stated.

"Your name?" Pratt eyed him.

"I am called Cloud Dancing," he introduced. "I am a Cheyenne medicine man."

"What about the lady with you?" Pratt questioned.

"Dorothy Jennings," she spoke for herself. "I'm here t' write about this for the Colorado Springs Gazette."

"Splendid," Pratt smiled. "A journalist to cover our endeavors."

"Explain your.... endeavors," the medicine man invited.

Pratt cleared his throat and began, "I have secured approval from Secretary of Interior Schurz and Secretary of War McCrary to create a school for the Indians in Carlisle, Pennsylvania."

Cloud Dancing spoke to the tribal leaders briefly, then turned to Pratt, "Why is this school to be located so far from our people?"

"I have permission to use a deserted military base there," he explained. "The size and location will be ideal for utilizing my.... educational techniques."

Miss Mather spoke, "The facility can accommodate 72 students, 36 from the Rosebud Agency and the same number from here."

"You wish to take 36 of our young people," Cloud Dancing became tense. "Take them from their family and home."

"Hear us out, please," Pratt raised his hand. "At the Rosebud Agency, we spoke to Spotted Tail, Milk, Two Strike and White Thunder. They, too, were reluctant."

"Reluctant," Cloud Dancing smiled. "Is it not easy to understand why? The white man has a history of violating many treaties with the Indians."

"Precisely my point," Pratt countered. "I maintain that if your people had been able to read the white man's words, the treaties would have been better understood and such violations might not have occurred."

Again, Cloud Dancing spoke to Red Cloud.

Pratt watched, then went on, "Too often, the Indians did not have an interpreter to do what you are doing, Cloud Dancing. He had to rely on a white interpreter, but what if you were not here, and Miss Mathers had to translate? What if she did not convey the true or exact meaning of my words?"

Cloud Dancing turned it around, "And what if you learned the language of my people?"

Pratt sighed, "No matter what happens, the white man will keep coming. Your people must be able to meet him face to face and take care of yourselves without the help of an interpreter or Indian agent."

Cloud Dancing repeated the words to the tribal leaders. Red Cloud then instructed him to tell Pratt and the white women to wait outside as he and the other Indians considered the proposal.

After Pratt, Mathers and Dorothy excused themselves, the Indians began a spirited debate.

************

"Mr. Weber," Michaela welcomed him into the Clinic. "Thank you for coming to Colorado Springs."

"Dr. Quinn," he removed his hat. "You can imagine the shock it was to our law firm to lose Barrett."

"Yes," she sympathized. "I'm terribly sorry. How is his family?"

"Coping well," he replied. "I believe they derived some solace from the letter he wrote just before his passing."

"I wish I could have done more to prevent....." her voice choked.

"There, there," he patted her arm. "I do hope my arrival hasn't upset you, but as you know, the settlement of your mother's estate is of high priority for me."

"I appreciate it," she composed herself.

"Now," he began. "I believe you have some papers that were brought by Barrett?"

"Yes," she opened her desk drawer. "Right here. I've signed all that was requested."

He perused them, "Good. All is in order. And I see that your husband has consented to the power of attorney."

"Sully considers this to be my money," she commented.

"Yes, well...." he cleared his throat. "Not all husbands are as accommodating. There are just a few more things I want to go over with you, then, Dr. Quinn, the money is yours."

************

Michaela steeled herself for the conversation, then stepped into Preston's bank.

"Michaela!" he was delighted. "What can I do for you?"

"I want to speak to you about some land," she stated.

"Land?" he was curious.

"I want to purchase some," she nodded.

"Certainly," he escorted her to a chair. "Of course, we'll need Sully's permission, but I'm sure that...."

"I don't need Sully's permission," she asserted.

"Michaela," he sat opposite her. "The unfortunate circumstance of your marriage means that any purchase of land using your Mother's estate is subject to his approval. Legally, the money is your husband's."

"I have the power of attorney over the money," she presented the papers. "Sully gave it to me."

"Why didn't you say so?" his eyes brightened. "Now, in what land are you interested?"

"Two tracts, actually," she described. "I need a sizable lot here in town for the hospital we're building..... and the other.... well, I'll describe where it is, and I want to arrange for its purchase."

"Is it for development as well?" he questioned.

"No," she answered simply.

"All right then," he began to jot down some notes. "Now, depending on the size of your hospital, I have several lots that could accommodate it. Ideally, I believe that what I have over on Lincoln would be best suited."

************

Situated between the high plains and foothills of the Rocky Mountains sits the town of Castle Rock, Colorado. About 35 miles north of Colorado Springs, the area had long been an excellent location for Indians and wild game, but those days had passed. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe with their nomadic hunting were no longer there. The pine forests no longer provided poles for their lodges. The white man had decimated the buffalo population. Even the deer and elk were no longer as plentiful.

When prospector David Kellogg passed through in 1858, he and some friends climbed the huge, flat topped rock and celebrated their achievement by firing off their revolvers and naming it Castle Rock. White settlers began to come to the area back in 1864, enticed by rumors of gold and the Homestead Act. But it was the discovery of rhyolite stone, used on housing exteriors, that garnered the most interest in the area. The quarry and subsequent lava stone industry made development of the area inevitable.

Sully, Matthew and Wolf stepped off of the train at the Castle Rock depot and headed for the sheriff's office. Introducing themselves, they explained the purpose of their visit.

Sheriff Nate Leyland was a tall and dark haired man. He toyed with his mustache as Matthew spoke.

"Enid McBain," Leyland repeated. "Yea, his family asked me t' wire the area lawmen about him. Personally, I think he's just runnin'."

"Runnin' from who?" Sully frowned.

"He owes a lot o' money," Leyland noted. "Gamblin' debts an' more."

"Do you know anythin' about a murder he claims t' have witnessed?" Matthew questioned.

"Tom Arnett," the sheriff nodded. "Shot dead in a Denver saloon. Man named Fitzgerald was arrested but got off. Then McBain stepped forward t' say he saw Fitzgerald do it."

"I was Fitzgerald's lawyer," Matthew informed him. "So, I got an interest in hearin' what McBain has t' say."

"Why?" Leyland tilted his head. "Your client's a free man."

"I wanna know the truth," Matthew asserted.

"Sometimes not knowin' is better," Leyland cryptically commented.

"Why's that?" Sully rubbed his upper lip.

"Look," the sheriff put his fingers in his vest pockets. "You seem like nice enough fellas. Why don't ya just head on back where ya come from, an' leave things be?"

"Don't sound like you want McBain t' be found," Sully stated.

"Don't matter t' me one way or another," he shrugged.

"Could ya tell us where his family lives?" Matthew was growing frustrated.

"Sure," he pointed. "Over on Elbert Street. White house. Only reason I sent out them telegrams is 'cause they're nice folk. But that son o' their's....."

"Thanks," Matthew opened the door. As he and Sully stepped outside, the young man commented, "What d' ya think?"

"Let's go talk t' his family," Sully pointed.

************

"Sister Mary Ignatius," Michaela opened the door. "It's nice to finally meet you."

"You, too, Dr. Quinn," the nun smiled.

The red of the sister's cheeks contrasted against the gray habit she wore. Her graceful nose and blue eyes spoke of kindness.

"Please, won't you sit down?" Michaela offered.

"Thank you," she responded. "I had a pleasant train trip here. Your town is quite lovely."

"Would you care for some tea?" Michaela offered.

"Yes, thank you," she consented.

As Michaela poured, the sister came to the point, "We are most pleased with your offer to fund a hospital. I don't know how to thank you."

"To tell you the truth, it was my husband's idea to work with you," she explained. "He saw you collecting donations on a street corner in Denver."

"Yes," Mary Ignatius nodded. "One coin at a time. But now.... your offer enables our dream to come to fruition much sooner."

"I believe we shall have a wonderful partnership," Michaela sat. "I'd like to show you the plans which my husband has had drawn up for the hospital."

The nun beamed, "I'd love to see them."

************

"Robert E," Grace arrived at the Livery holding a basket. "I brung ya lunch."

"Can't eat right now," he did not look up.

"Not even ten minutes t' spare?" she challenged.

"Ya heard me," he gruffly replied.

"If ya can't spare ten minutes for me now, don't bother comin' home t'night!" she exclaimed.

"What?" he was shocked.

"I said, no need you comin' home t'night," she repeated.

"What's wrong with you, woman?" he set down his hammer.

"Ain't your business anymore!" she pivoted and left.

Robert E took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Maybe it was that menopause thing that Sully mentioned. He determined that he would stop by to ask Dr. Mike about it when he had a break in his work.

************

"Lily!" Brian's eyes widened. "You're back from Manitou."

"Yes," she smiled.

"Come on in," he invited her into the homestead. "Matthew isn't here, though. He's in Castle Rock with Pa."

"Oh," she frowned.

"Will I do for company?" he grinned.

"Of course," the smile returned to her face. "Very nicely."

"Lil!" Josef bounded down the steps. "Good t' see ya."

She lifted the child, "It's good to see you, too. How are your sisters and brother?"

"Keepin' me busy," he hugged her. "Ya know what we get?"

"What?" she played along.

"A hog pig," he answered.

"Oh?" Lily set him down.

"But it's not t' be wich," he added.

Brian chuckled, "Can I get ya somethin' t' drink, Lily?"

"Oh, no thank you," she removed her gloves. "What's Matthew doing in Castle Rock? I don't recall hearing him mention going there."

"Just came up," Brian told her. "The man who witnessed that murder has disappeared, an' that's where he's from. They went lookin' for him."

"Oh, dear," she frowned.

"Wanna play?" Josef tugged at her dress.

"Josef," Brian patted his head. "Let Lily come in an' sit down. She just got here."

"'Kay," he became contrite.

She bent down, "I'll play with you later. How's that?"

"Good," Josef agreed. "I go see babies now. They miss me."

Brian shook his head as the little boy left them.

"Do you know when Matthew might be home?" she queried.

"Maybe t'night," he noted. "Why don't ya join us for supper?"

"I'd love to," she responded. "Father's staying in Manitou a few more days."

"Ya sound relieved," Brian perceived.

"I am," Lily informed him. "I love my father dearly, but since Mother's death, his demands on my time have kept me away from Matthew."

"Well, even without my brother here, you're welcome any time," Brian stated.

************

"Mrs. McBain?" Matthew spoke to the woman who opened the door.

"Yes?" she held back inviting him in.

"My name's Matthew Cooper," he said. "This here's Byron Sully. We come t' help ya find Enid."

************

"Dr. Mike?" Robert E spoke from the door of the Clinic.

"Come in," she stepped back. "Are you all right?"

"Yea," he removed his cap. "But I ain't so sure about Grace."

"Has... something happened?" she feared.

"I don' know," he shook his head. "T'day she brought over my lunch t' the Livery, then told me not t' come home t'night 'cause I couldn't eat it right away."

She sighed, "I see."

"I think she might have that menopause thing," he stated.

"No," Michaela smiled. "It's not that. But promise me something."

"Sure," he agreed.

"Don't stay away from her," she said. "No matter what she says, just.... love her, Robert E."

"I do love her," he insisted. "But she's drivin' me crazy."

************

"Enid McBain?" a man in the Denver saloon stared at the poster Hank held. "Yea, I know him."

"Any idea where he might be?" the sheriff inquired.

"Dead, I hope," the man walked away.

"That's a good start," Hank spoke to himself.

Stepping up to the bar, he ordered a shot of whiskey.

As the bartender poured, the sheriff looked around the room, "I hear Enid McBain was a regular customer here."

"Regular pain in the ass is what he was," the bartender handed him the glass.

"Oh?" Hank smirked. "Why's that?"

"Owed damn near everyone who met him money," he replied.

"Ya know he's disappeared?" Hank stated.

"Good," he nodded. "For that bit o' news, I'll give ya another drink on the house."

"Why's he owe so many folks money?" Hank continued his questions.

"Got 'em involved in some quarry business down near Castle Rock," the man answered. "Once folks gave him their money, he took off."

"You here the day Tom Arnett was killed?" Hank changed the subject.

"No," he poured another shot. "It was after we closed."

"Anyone else see who done it?" Hank wondered.

"No one 'cept McBain's come forward," he began to dry a glass. "But.... wouldn't surprise me if it was him who killed Arnett."

"Why's that?" the sheriff queried.

"'Cause Arnett was lookin' for McBain t' get his money back," he explained.

"What about Fitzgerald, the man they tried for the murder?" Hank asked.

"Nah," he shook his head. "Not like him t' do somethin' like that. He don't even own a gun. Only reason he was arrested is 'cause he was the last one seen leavin' the bar. Claimed he came back t' get his keys. Then he found Arnett lyin' in a pool o' blood."

"So ya think McBain's alive then?" Hank returned to the subject.

"Weasels like that live long lives," the bar tender nodded.

************

"And we fear Enid's dead," Mrs. McBain spoke with a Scottish brogue.

"Know anyone who might wanna see him dead?" Matthew spoke calmly.

"Nay," she shook her head. "My Enid's a good boy. Never done nothin' t' no one."

Sully spoke up, "Ma'am, my wolf's real good at trackin'. Ya got anythin' of his we could use for the scent?"

"Aye," she left the room and returned shortly. "This is Enid's shirt."

"Thanks," Matthew shook her hand. "We'll do all we can t' find him."

"Thank ya, boys," she acknowledged.

************

"Dinner was delicious as usual, Bridget," Michaela wiped her mouth.

"Thank ya, lass," she smiled.

"Now we play checkers, Lil?" Josef slipped from his chair.

"All right," she could not resist him.

"Come on, Katie," Brian invited. "Let's watch. Maybe we'll get some pointers."

"I think we're forgetting something, children," Michaela interrupted.

"May we be excused?" Katie glanced at her mother.

"Yes," she consented. "And I'll help Bridget with cleaning tonight since the twins seem to be unusually well behaved."

"That's all right, Dr. Mike, if you'd rather be with the wee ones," the nanny offered.

"I wanted to talk to you," Michaela kept her voice low.

"Why's that, lass?" she asked.

"I need your help," Michaela said.

"I'll do what I can, don't ya know," the nanny affirmed. "What d' ya need my help on?"

"I spoke to Sister Mary Ignatius today about the new hospital," Michaela explained. "We've finalized many arrangements, but there's something that I wanted to ask your advice about."

"My advice?" the nanny was surprised. "I don't know nothin' about hospitals, lass."

"But you do know something about Roman Catholicism," Michaela remembered.

"What do ya wanna know about the Church?" the nanny inquired.

"The sisters have requested to name the hospital after St. Francis," she detailed. "But, I'd like to know a little bit about him before I agree."

"Didn't your mother teach ya that, lass?" Bridget questioned.

"No," Michaela replied. "Mother never attempted to impart much about the Church dogma or saints to us."

"Well," Bridget began. "St. Francis of Assisi lived a few hundred years ago. He was born int' wealth, but not at all happy with his life. He decided t' turn his life t' prayer an' helpin' the poor. Through is lifestyle, he developed quite a followin', don't ya know. An' the next thing ya know, the Pope was noticin'."

"Oh?" Michaela was curious.

"Recongizin' the Franciscan order o' monks," Bridget revealed. "Francis founded other orders, one for women, one for lay people."

"Tell me about his work for the poor," Michaela invited.

"There's a story that he was once travelin' an' came upon a leper," Bridget related. "At first he was repulsed, but then he got down off his horse, embraced the poor man an' gave him his money. The lad started doin' that wherever he went. Given his money, even givin' his clothes."

"He sounds very noble," Michaela admired.

"'Twas not easy for him after that," she continued. "His family an' a lot o' folks thought he was crazy. They tormented him. His own father beat him. From that time on, he gave up all worldly possessions an' followed a life o' prayer an' helpin' all. Even the animals."

"He sounds like an extraordinary man," Michaela commented.

Bridget mentioned, "I got a prayer he wrote called "Canticle o' the Creatures," Dr. Mike. If ya like, before bedtime, I'll show it t' ya."

"I'd like that," Michaela smiled.

"The Church recognizes his feast day on October 4," the nanny said.

"October 4?" Michaela's eyes widened.

************
Chapter 8
************

"Is that a special day?" Bridget wondered.

"Oh, yes," Michaela's eyes welled. "And I believe it's given me the answer to my question."

"Poppy an' Matthew's home!" Katie shouted from the living room.

Drawing back the kitchen curtain, Michaela saw the silhouettes of the two. Suddenly from upstairs, the babies burst into tears.

"I'll check on 'em," Bridget offered.

Katie and Josef were at the door anticipating its opening. When Sully stepped in, he was surrounded by the little ones. He leaned down to kiss them.

As the children greeted Matthew, Sully took Michaela's hand and led her into the kitchen.

"Welcome back," she stroked back the hair on the sides of his head.

He commenced a kiss, "Good t' be back."

"You two must be hungry," she went to the stove. "We saved you some dinner."

"I'm starvin'," he removed his coat.

"How did it go?" she began to ladle stew into the bowls.

"Gotta go back first thing in the mornin'," he washed his hands. "Hank thinks McBain's hidin' somewhere east o' Castle Rock."

"Hiding?" she raised an eyebrow. "So he's alive?"

"Most likely," Sully sat down.

As he began to eat, she massaged his shoulders, "I purchased the land for the hospital today."

"Ya did?" he looked up. "Where?"

"Over on Lincoln," she said. Then she beckoned, "Matthew, I have supper for you."

"Thanks, Ma," he called from the living room. "Be there shortly."

"I met with Sister Mary Ignatius," Michaela added.

"Sounds like things are movin' along real good," he wiped his mouth.

"Yes," she agreed. "Oh, and Robert E stopped by the Clinic."

"He did?" Sully was interested.

"Grace still hasn't mentioned the baby to him," she noted. "And she even told him not to come home this evening."

"What did ya tell him?" he wondered.

"I told him to love her," she leaned down to kiss his cheek.

"Good," he grinned.

************

"I'll take Lily home," Brian offered. "You go ahead an' eat your supper, Matthew."

"No thanks, little brother," he smiled. "I got some catchin' up t' do."

"It can wait, Matthew," Lily tapped his arm. "Dr. Mike fixed you something to eat."

"But I don't know when we might get t' see each other, Lily," he protested. "I'm leavin' again t'morrow."

"Oh," she sighed.

He helped her with her coat, "Ma will understand."

"I guess I'll take care o' Pa's horse then," Brian spoke to no one in particular.

************

"It is settled," Cloud Dancing informed Dorothy.

"What did they decide?" she was curious.

"They are going to send the children to this school," his expression was of sadness.

Dorothy touched his arm, "How many?"

He added, "All that has been requested. Perhaps more. Red Cloud is sending his grandson. American Horse three children."

"You don't think this is a good idea," she perceived.

"They will ride the train to a far away land," he swallowed hard.

"But someday they'll come back." she offered.

"We do not know this," he shook his head. "We shall see if it is as the white man described."

"Before we left Colorado Springs, Michaela gave me somethin' t' think over with ya," the redhead related.

"What is this something?" he was interested.

"She said maybe you an' me could think o' somethin' she could do t' help the Cheyenne with her money," Dorothy recalled.

"And you have thought of it?" he tilted his head.

"What if we start a school for Indian children, Cloud Dancin'?" she proposed.

"You and I?" he pointed. "This cannot be."

"Why can't it?" she challenged. "They could learn how t' survive in the white man's world but not take away their native customs and traditions."

"If they learn the way of the white man, they will not keep their Indian ways," he knew.

"So ya don't wanna even think about it?" she raised an eyebrow.

"I will think because you ask," he responded. "Maybe the Spirits will show us the path."

"Maybe they will," she agreed.

************

"Here's the Canticle, Dr. Mike," Bridget took the prayer card from her Bible.

Michaela began to peruse it, "It's beautiful. I think.... I think I'll share this with the children tonight. Thank you, Bridget."

"About that date, October 4," she paused. "Ya never did say why it was special."

"It was Mother's birthday," Michaela revealed. "I think St. Francis Hospital is just the right name."

"'Tis a sign, lass," the nanny smiled and embraced her.

************

With the children tucked into their beds, Michaela read the prayer aloud. They listened with interest.

When she finished, Josef unfolded his hands and opened his eyes, "Fwancis like aminals, Mama?"

"Yes, apparently he did," she stroked his hair.

"Me, too," he added.

Michaela glanced at the page again, "And he loved the sun, moon, stars...."

Katie recalled the words of the prayer, "An' wind, air, water...."

Josef chimed in, "An' the earth."

"Good night, my darlings," she kissed them.

"Where's Poppy?" Katie asked.

"He's washing up from his trip," Michaela answered. "He'll be in to say good night soon."

"Okay," she smiled.

Michaela left the light on and exited the room. Within a few minutes, Sully came to them.

"You two still awake?" he whispered.

"Yep," Katie replied. "We waited for ya."

Sully glanced over at Josef, who had dozed off, "Well, not everyone."

"Ya gotta leave again t'morrow?" Katie played with the edge of her blanket.

"Yea, I do," he nodded.

"You be careful?" she cautioned.

"You sound like your Ma," he grinned.

"That's good," she smiled.

"Very good," he complimented. "I'll be careful. Everythin' okay in school?"

"Uh huh," she nodded. "Mrs. Johnson's real smart. Not as smart as Mama an' you, but she's a good teacher."

"Well, it's hard t' be as smart as your Ma an' me," he joked. "Wendell givin' ya any problems lately?"

"Besides pullin' my hair an' pushin' me at recess?" she mentioned.

"Yea, besides that," he clasped her hand.

"No," she shrugged. "I can handle him."

"No more kickin' though," he warned.

"I learned my lesson, Poppy," she nodded.

"Okay, then," he drew her blanket higher. "I love you, sweet girl."

"I love you, too," she rolled onto her side and closed her eyes.

Sully kissed her cheek, then walked to Josef's bed. He kissed the little boy's forehead, lowered the lamp and left them.

************

"What are you doin' here?" Grace challenged when Robert E entered the bedroom.

"I live here," he asserted.

"Then I'm movin'!" she rose from the bed.

"Grace," he touched her shoulder. "Look.... I.... we.... what's botherin' ya?"

"Oh, now ya wanna talk?" she stubbornly responded. "I been wantin' t' speak t' ya since New Year's Eve."

"Well," he smiled slightly. "Here I am. Sorry I'm late."

She looked at him earnestly and felt her anger dissipate.

"I got somethin' I wanna tell ya," she felt her hands tremble.

He noticed, "Look. I.... I think maybe we oughta consider somethin'."

"What?" her brow wrinkled.

"I been worried about ya, Grace," he swallowed hard. "I... I think maybe there's somethin' wrong with your.... mental state."

"My what?" she was flabbergasted. "You sayin' I'm....."

"Just a little emotional," he offered. "Maybe some time in one o' them health spas would help."

"Spa?" she grew more upset. "Why don't ya just lock me up in an asylum?"

"I didn't mean t' upset ya," he defended. "I just thought maybe gettin' away from things would....."

"Only thing I need t' get away from is you!" she shouted. "Now get out!"

"Grace," he implored. "I ain't leavin'."

"Then I am," she asserted.

"Where to?" he put his hands on his hips.

"None o' your business!" she reached for her dress.

Robert E sighed, "Never mind, woman. Stay here. I'll go."

With that, he closed the door and departed. Grace heard the front door slam and instantly regretted her actions. She watched him through a slit in the curtains.

"The Gold Nugget," she said to herself. "Prob'ly gonna go get drunk."

************

Sully entered the bedroom to find Michaela cradling both babies in the rocking chair.

"Pa," Annie smiled at her father.

Sully sat beside his wife, then lifted the little girl into his arms. Noah extended his hand toward him, as well. Sully playfully kissed the baby's fingers.

"I suppose these two will be awake until quite late," Michaela observed.

"I don't mind," he smiled. "I love holdin' 'em."

"But you have another early day tomorrow," she noted.

He sighed, "I'm startin' t' think this man ain't some innocent witness who was scared int' hidin', Michaela."

"Oh?" she wondered.

"He's made a lot o' enemies, owes a lot o' debts," Sully detailed.

"But you believe that he's still alive," she assumed.

"Yep," he kissed Annie's cheek.

Michaela began to caress his shoulder, "I was thinking today about finding you in that hollowed out log.... after you had been missing for so many days following...."

"What made ya think o' that?" he was concerned.

"Wondering if someone you were looking for is still alive. It reminded me how alive I felt once I knew that you were still breathing," she went on.

"I'm sorry I put ya through that," he sighed.

"You always make me feel so alive, Sully," she affirmed.

"That's how I feel about you," he kissed her softly.

Noah reached up again and grabbed his father's hair.

Michaela gently undid his grasp, "No, Sweetheart." The little boy leaned against her shoulder. "As you have often told me, I think too much."

"Thinkin's not all bad," he paused. "I do a lot of it when I'm away from you an' the kids. I close my eyes an' think about you.... holdin' the babies... or helpin' Katie with her homework.... or tryin' t' teach Joe how t' behave himself. I think about how ya did the same for Brian, Colleen an' Matthew. I hear your sweet voice sayin' my name. Holdin' me in our bed. An' after I think on ya a while, I fall asleep, believin' that you're right there beside me."

She stroked his arm, "I am right there beside you."

They continued the back and forth motion of the rocking chair until all were becoming drowsy.

"Finally asleep," Michaela whispered as she rose to set Noah in his crib.

She turned to see that Sully, too, had drifted off. She lifted Annie from his arms, tenderly kissed the baby and lay her in her crib.

Then she clasped her husband's hand, "Sully, come to bed."

"Mmm?" he yawned.

"I said, come to bed," she tugged slightly. "You did enough sleeping in a chair when I was ill."

He stretched, "Okay."

As Michaela pulled back the covers, he undressed and came to her side. Once in bed, he drew her near and kissed her.

"I thought you were sleepy," she noted wryly.

"I was," he playfully returned. "Remember that newlywed feelin'?"

"Yes," she smiled.

"I got it," he kissed her again.

"Sully," she tilted back her head to savor his enticing kisses.

As he touched her in all of the right places, Michaela felt herself carried along on his tide of love. Sully held the sides of her face and gazed intently into her eyes.

Then he spoke low:

"Whene'er she speaks, my ravish'd ear
No other voice than hers can hear,
No other wit but hers approve:
Tell me, my heart, if this be love?"

"It's definitely love," she smiled. "Was that.... Emerson?"

"George Lyttelton," he kissed her again.

Next, he slid his hand beneath the opening of her gown. Leaning down to caress and kiss her breasts, his warm lips excited her. Michaela soon reacted to his alluring movements. They positioned themselves to fully come together. With a rhythmic and heightening motion, the intensity of their contact surged through them until, at last united and fulfilled, they lay back to catch their breaths.

Michaela lightly stroked his chest above his heart, "I rather like thinking of us as newlyweds."

"Then we always will," he kissed her.

************

Preston jumped when he heard the deep voice, "You got the money?"

"Why do you insist on this clandestine meeting in my bank at night?" the banker squinted under the low light.

"I got my reasons," the voice drew closer. "Where's the money?"

"Right here," Preston held up a bag. "Now, where's the deed?"

"Right here," he clutched a piece of paper.

Preston opened it and read, "One thousand acres of prime timber land."

The man opened the bag, "Three thousand dollars."

"I trust that we can do business again?" Preston smirked. "Perhaps in broad daylight next time."

"Perhaps," the voice faded.

Preston turned around to see that he was gone.

************
Chapter 9
************

"You got the map?" Hank asked Sully as the train raced northward.

"Yea," he nodded.

"We may be dealin' with more than just a missin' person case here," Matthew determined.

"Could be findin' the real killer o' Tom Arnett," Hank agreed.

"Then we need t' be extra careful," Sully cautioned. "McBain could be real dangerous."

Hank withdrew his revolver, "This'll do the talkin' when we find him."

"No," Sully countered.

Hank scoffed, "I don't know 'bout you, but I'd just as soon arrest him, an' be done."

"We don't have anythin' t' arrest him for," Matthew asserted.

"I reckon searchin' his cabin will give us a reason," Hank replied.

************

"Michaela," Preston smiled broadly. "If you have a minute, I'd like to discuss that land purchase you wanted."

"Have you been able to secure the other deed?" she raised her eyebrows.

"Of course," he stated. "I'll just need your signature on some papers, then we can arrange the transfer of funds."

"How much?" she questioned.

"For you, four thousand dollars," he replied.

"That much!" she was surprised.

"It's valuable land, Michaela," he defended. "It doesn't come cheap. The lot on Lincoln was no trouble because I already owned it, but the other land.... well, I had to go through quite a lot to get it. Including my procurement fee, it comes to four thousand dollars."

"Yes," she agreed. "Very well. I.... I believe it's worth it."

"You didn't mention yesterday why you wanted this land," he set the papers before her and reached for his pen.

"And I don't intend to mention it now," she signed on the designated lines.

He returned his pen to his pocket, "I'll see that private property signs are posted prominently around it to prevent poachers and squatters."

"Thank you," she politely smiled.

************

Grace glanced toward the Livery. Robert E had avoided her ever since she had arrived to prepare breakfast at the Cafe. She stood near the stove, warming her hands. Then she saw Michaela round the corner and make her way to a seat.

"Mornin', Dr. Mike," Grace carried a coffee pot. "Would ya like a cup?"

"Thank you," Michaela smiled. "Do you have a moment to talk?"

"I.... I reckon," Grace sat beside her.

"I know this is none of my business....." Michaela began.

"Then ya best not get involved," her back stiffened.

"Grace," Michaela placed her hand atop her friend's. "Why? Why haven't you told him?"

"It ain't that easy," her lower lip quivered.

"He's your husband, the father of this child" Michaela encouraged. "He loves you."

"We ain't been actin' like that lately," the Cafe owner countered.

"Part of why you feel the way you do is precisely because of the pregnancy," she kept her voice low.

"What d' ya mean?" Grace questioned.

"Your body is going through tremendous changes to accommodate the baby," she explained. "And your emotions can take some strange turns along the way."

"You an' Sully go through this?" Grace wondered.

"At times, I behaved quite irrationally when I was expecting," she nodded. "But I have been blessed with a husband who has great patience where my swings of mood have been concerned."

"You sayin' Robert E an' me will get along better if I tell him?" Grace reasoned.

"Yes," Michaela smiled. "That's exactly what I'm saying. Once he understands....."

"Ma?" Brian appeared at the table.

Grace stood up and offered her seat.

"I didn't mean t' interrupt," the young man sensed.

"Not interruptin'," Grace smiled. "I got customers t' wait on. Sit down, Brian."

As she departed, Brian joined his mother.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?" Michaela patted his hand. "You've been so busy lately, I hardly see you."

"I saw ya sittin' here through The Gazette window, so I thought I'd come over," he shyly looked down.

"Something on your mind?" Michaela picked up on it.

"I kinda.... I have this friend," Brian said. "An' he's goin' through somethin'. He.... he asked me for advice, but I don't know what t' tell him."

"What is he going through?" Michaela was curious.

"He thinks he's fallin' in love," the young man informed her.

"I see," she smiled. "What are.... his symptoms?"

"Well...." he swallowed hard. "He kinda thinks about this woman a lot. An' when he's around her, he feels funny inside. Like he's gonna burst."

"It sounds quite serious," she nodded. "Why does he want advice?"

"Oh, just...." he paused to take a deep breath. "He doesn't think he should be in love with her."

"Why not?" she queried.

"She's kinda spoken for already," he told her.

"Oh," Michaela frowned. "That does complicate things."

"So, what should I tell him, Ma?" he glanced at her.

"When you say she's spoke for," she paused. "I assume she's married."

"No," he shook his head.

"Engaged?" she tried again.

"No," he responded.

"Would it be possible for you..... your friend.... to let her know of his feelings?" she counseled.

"Before you an' Pa got engaged, folks still knew you were sweet on each other. Would you have wanted another woman t' come along an' tell him how she felt?" he posed the question.

Michaela's mind flashed back to Catherine, "No, I wouldn't."

"So ya can see my.... friend's dilemma," he sighed.

"Does this woman suspect how your friend feels?" she asked.

"I don't think so," he shook his head.

"Your friend must be an honorable man, Sweetheart," she clasped his hand. "It's important to take the high road.... not pressure this young lady in any way...."

"Oh, he wouldn't do anythin' like that," Brian assured her.

Michaela leaned over to embrace him, "I hope he finds an answer."

"Me, too," he sighed.

************

"Look," Sully pointed.

"Ya think that's McBain's cabin?" Matthew saw the abode.

"I got no doubt," Hank checked his revolver.

"Hank," Sully touched his arm. "Don't do nothin'."

"Just bein' prepared," he assured.

"Wolf," Sully beckoned the animal.

Pulling McBain's shirt from his saddle bag, he held it down for the animal. Wolf immediately began to whine and wag his tail. Then he rushed toward the cabin.

"Like I said," Hank said. "I got no doubt."

"Let's go, then," Matthew nodded.

The three men left their horses and made their way toward the cabin. As Hank knocked on the door, Sully and Matthew stealthily rounded the corner to look for another entrance.

"Don't seem like he's here," Hank said to himself.

Then, he kicked open the door.

"Hold it right there!" McBain called from behind them, rifle in hand. "What the hell ya think you're doin'?"

"Lookin' for you, McBain," Hank asserted. "Your family's been worried about ya. Sent out word t' all the nearby towns."

"Who are you?" McBain kept his gun on them.

"I'm Sheriff Hank Lawson from Colorado Springs," he introduced.

"Sheriff of Colorado Springs?" McBain tilted his head. "Why would you be interested in findin' me?"

"I kinda got a soft spot for missin' persons," Hank smirked. "Like t' see fam'lies reunited."

"Why'd ya kick my door?" McBain challenged.

"Thought ya might be sick or hurt when no one answered," he retorted.

"Tell my family I'm okay, but don't say where I am," the man instructed.

"Why don't ya tell 'em yourself?" Hank wondered. "They were expectin' ya home for Christmas."

"Couldn't make it," he replied.

"Why ya hidin' out here?" Hank lit a cigar. "You afraid o' somethin'?"

McBain became agitated, "I think it's time for you t' leave."

"Okay," he shrugged.

"An' don't tell anyone ya found me, except my family," McBain added.

"If you're in some kinda trouble," Hank's tone softened. "Maybe I can help."

"No one can help me," he responded. "No one."

"One more thing," Hank paused. "Folks in Denver say you witnessed a murder. That true?"

"No," his eyes darkened. "I never saw anythin'."

"I see," Hank puffed a ring of smoke into the air. "I'll let ya be then."

McBain watched as Hank retreated back into the woods. By the time he reached the horses, Sully and Matthew joined him.

"Find anythin'?" Hank questioned.

"He's got a bunch o' deeds in there," Sully revealed. "They look bogus t' me. Empty money bag, too. From a bank."

"Ya think he robbed one?" Matthew's brow wrinkled.

"Could wire some local banks t' see," Hank replied.

************

"Afternoon, Loren," Bridget stepped into the mercantile.

"Oh," he smiled uncomfortably. "Afternoon."

"I brought back the dress ya loaned me," she held a package.

"Why don't ya just keep it?" he shrugged.

"Wouldn't be right," she set it on the counter top. "I'll be goin' now."

"Bridget," he interjected. "About dinner on New Year's Day."

"I imagine ya wanna tell me how good the ham was," she retorted.

"Well, yea, it was good," Loren placed his fingers in his vest pockets.

"I'll take it as a compliment then," she acknowledged. "Oh, one other thing...."

"Yes?" Loren raised his eyebrows.

"I don't rightly know what ya may have against Catholics, but...." tears began to well in her eyes.

Loren quickly went to her and put his arm around her, "Awe, I got nothin' against ya 'cause you're Catholic, Bridget. I'm just an old man, set in his ways."

"Ya don't seem old t' me, Loren Bray," the blue of her eyes sparkled.

"If ya ain't mad at me for how I acted, maybe you an' me could visit again sometime?" he smiled.

She wiped a tear, "I'd like that."

************

"Telegram come for ya, Preston," Horace entered the bank. "It's from Hank."

"Where on earth is he that he'd have to send a wire?" he was puzzled.

"In Castle Rock," the telegraph operator noted.

Preston read in silence, then turned to Horace and dismissed its contents, "Hmm. Doesn't apply to me."

************

Michaela stopped by the Livery before going to the school to pick up Katie.

"Robert E?" she spotted him.

"Hey, Dr. Mike," he wiped his brow. "What can I do for ya?"

"I.... just wondered how you're doing," she smiled.

"Other than a stiff back, I'm all right, I reckon," he stretched his muscles.

"Would you like me to give you something for it?" she offered.

"'Fraid ya don't got any medicine for what ails me," he shook his head.

"Grace?" she assumed.

"I tried doin' what ya told me, Dr. Mike," he swallowed hard. "But.... last night, she told me if I didn't leave the house, she would."

Michaela sighed, "I'm sorry."

"Ain't your fault," he said. "I just don' know what t' do anymore."

"Don't give up," she assured. "She'll come around."

"Wish I could be so sure," his eyes saddened.

************

"So what should we do now?" Matthew pondered.

"Well, we found him," Hank folded his arms. "He ain't missin' anymore. Claims he didn't see any murder. I reckon we wait t' hear if any banks was robbed."

"We oughta let his family know he's okay," Sully rubbed his upper lip.

"I can do that," Matthew reminded. "But what if they wanna know where he is?"

"Then just say he'll let 'em know soon as he can," Hank answered.

"I don't trust him," Sully spoke. "Those papers o' his...."

"I don't know about you," Hank stretched. "But I'm tired an' hungry."

"I'll go talk t' his family," Matthew offered.

"Then what?" Hank asked.

"You two can go home," Matthew said. "Ya helped me find him, an' I'm much obliged. I'll stay here in Castle Rock. See if I can learn any more. I'll wire ya t'morrow t' let ya know what I find out."

"Matthew...." Sully began.

"I'll be fine," the young man grinned. "Tell Ma not t' worry."

************

Michaela sat at the table feeding the twins. Katie and Josef were strangely quiet during dinner. Bridget and Brian were pensive, as well. Only the babies babbled on merrily as their mother spooned their meal to them.

Katie finally spoke up, "Is Poppy comin' home t'night?"

"I'm not certain, Sweetheart," Michaela said.

"He still lookin' for man?" Josef queried.

"Yes," the mother wiped off the twins' mouths.

Again, the children became quiet.

"Dinner was delicious, Bridget," Michaela attempted conversation.

"Thanks, lass," she smiled.

"Brian, did you have a good day at The Gazette?" Michaela tried again.

"It was all right," he shrugged.

Michaela glanced at her children, "Perhaps we could sing some songs after we eat."

"Do we have to?" Katie was unenthusiastic.

"No, but... you love to sing," Michaela noted.

"I'm kinda tired t'night, Mama," the little girl sighed.

"Josef," Michaela hoped. "I found an article about hogs in one of my books. If you'd like, I'll read it to you later."

"I kind tired, too," he imitated his sister.

"Seems like your Ma's tryin' t' cheer everyone up," Bridget stated. "Maybe we could help her."

"You cheer me up," Josef smiled at his mother.

She cupped his cheek, "And you cheer me, as well."

"I reckon your Papa wouldn't want us t' sit around all gloom an' doom, now would he?" the nanny went on.

"No," Katie perked up. "Bran, would you play your harmonica?"

"Sure," he nodded.

"Then we'll have a merry time," Bridget chuckled.

************

On the train ride back to Colorado Springs, Hank rubbed his chin, "Matthew's wastin' his time."

Sully frowned, "It's his time t' waste. He wanted t' stay t' keep an eye on things."

"There's nothin' t' see," the sheriff folded his arms.

"What if McBain did rob a bank?" Sully posed the question.

"Then I'll go back an' arrest him," he returned.

"An' what if he takes off before ya can?" Sully countered. "With Matthew watchin' him, you'll know where he is."

"Waste o' time," Hank repeated.

************

Michaela sat at her desk in the living room. Having finally gotten the children to bed, she took the opportunity to work on her patient files. And, she admitted, she held out hope that Sully would be home this evening.

Her mind drifted to their discussion of acting like newlyweds. She warmed at the thought of him. How was it possible after eight and a half years of marriage to be even more in love with her husband than the day they wed? She had never read, nor heard of such a thing. The marriages she knew of seemed to fall into a comfortable co-existence. But, then again, Sully was unlike anyone she had ever known.

She set down her pen, and drew her shawl tighter. Rising from the chair, she strolled toward the window. The frosted panes were a reminder that they were in the midst of winter. She next gathered the children's toys and placed them in their box, then entered the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Then she heard something. Rushing to the window in anticipation, she saw Wolf bounding up the steps. Straining her eyes, she made out Sully's form, as well.

She opened the door to let Wolf inside, "Hello, boy."

The animal wagged his tail, then headed for his bowl in the corner.

Patiently, Michaela waited for her husband to settle his horse for the night. She glanced at the clock. It never took Sully this long to unsaddle his horse. Concerned, she donned her coat and headed out to the barn.

************
Chapter 10
************

Michaela tentatively opened the barn door, "Sully?"

"Over here," he called from one of the stalls.

"Are you all right?" she approached.

"Yea," he finished brushing his horse.

"I was worried when it took you so long," she wrapped her arms around him.

"Sorry," he smiled and kissed her.

"I was just thinking of.... us," she spoke low.

He grinned, "What about us?"

"First tell me about your trip," she changed the subject.

"We found McBain," he informed her.

Sully went on to recount the events of the day.

"I hope Matthew will be careful," her brow wrinkled.

"He will," Sully reassured.

"The children missed you," she linked her arm in his as they headed for the house. "They were quite solemn at dinner."

"I missed them, too," he smiled.

When they entered the house, Sully removed his coat and went to the fireplace to warm his hands. His mind turned to his trip and finding the missing man.

"You look as if you're puzzled," she noticed his expression.

"I am," he sighed. "Nothin' makes sense about this McBain situation. Tells folks he saw a murder, then retracts it. Owes people money. Goes int' hidin'. He's got counterfeit land deeds an' an empty money bag in his cabin. How's it all fit t'gether?"

She considered it, "Perhaps he's been selling land he doesn't own in order to raise money to pay off his debts."

"An' why'd he tell the authorities that he witnessed a murder, then tell us he didn't?" he remained perplexed.

"He might be afraid," she reasoned. "If he stands by his story of witnessing the murder, he could be questioned further by the law. On the other hand, if he has been engaging in illegal activities such as land fraud, he would want to steer clear of the authorities."

"He's made enemies, Michaela," Sully said. "It ain't just the law he's afraid of."

************

Cloud Dancing closed his eyes. A dream soon came. In it, he saw a soldier of high military rank. The officer pulled his gun and aimed it at a group of Indian children assembled in a field. Suddenly, Michaela stepped forward to place herself between the revolver and the children. The soldier eased up on the trigger and demanded that she get out of the way. As he tried to shove her aside, he was unable to move her. Next he saw Black Kettle walk toward Michaela, embracing her for her efforts.

He awoke and noticed that Dorothy was watching him, "The Spirits have told me what we must do."

************

Sully entered the bedroom and began to undress. Stepping quietly toward the cribs, he stroked the babies' hair, then began to wash up.

"Anymore thoughts about McBain?" Michaela looked up.

"No," he raised the cover and joined her in bed.

She snuggled closer and rested her hand above his heart, "Perhaps Matthew will learn more."

He raised her hand to his lips and kissed her palm, "I hope so. This whole thing has troubled him. Thinkin' he might've gotten a guilty man off o' murder charges."

"I know," she sympathized. "Speaking of our troubled sons...."

"What's Joe done now?" he grinned.

"It's Brian," she corrected. "He spoke to me today about a friend of his. He wanted advice."

"Oh?" he was curious.

"Well," she paused. "He said it was a friend, but I suspect it was really about himself."

"Somethin' wrong?" he sensed.

"He's believes that he's falling in love," she revealed.

"Brian?" his eyes widened.

"Yes," she nodded.

"Why'd he say it was a friend then?" he wondered.

"I suspect he's embarrassed," she reasoned. "He says that the young woman is spoken for, but she's not engaged or married."

"So he could still try t' win her heart," Sully smiled.

"Apparently she doesn't look at him in that way," she noted.

"Unrequited love," he acknowledged.

"I don't want to see him hurt," she said.

"Maybe I could talk t' him," he figured.

"A man's perspective might help," she smiled.

"Hmm," he teased. "You admittin' that I might have some insight."

"You have wonderful insight," she complimented.

"Any news with Grace an' Robert E?" he inquired.

"Their tension seems to be escalating," Michaela sighed.

"That's too bad," he stroked her arm.

"Sully?" she looked up. "Could you take me to the mountain tomorrow?"

"Sure," he answered. "Got a special reason?"

"Just to think," she leaned against his shoulder.

Mystified by her request, he kissed the top of her head, "Think about anythin' in particular?"

"Our family and friends," her voice began to trail off as she grew drowsy.

Sully enfolded her in his arms, "'Night, Michaela. I love you."

"I love you, too," she replied.

************

"Papa," Josef tugged at his father's arm as the dawning light illuminated the bedroom. "You home!"

"Hey, Joe," Sully lifted him into bed. "Don't talk loud. Your Ma's still sleepin'."

Josef embraced him, "Mama wead t' us 'bout hogs."

"She did?" Sully grinned.

"Uh huh," the little boy kept his voice low. "I learn boar an' sow."

"What's a boar?" Sully played along.

"Boy," he responded.

"An' a sow?" the father rubbed his son's belly.

"Girl," Josef giggled.

Michaela stirred slightly. Sully raised his finger to his lips, indicating that they were being too loud.

Josef climbed between his parents, and stroked his mother's hair as she slept.

Softly, the child spoke, "She the pwettiest lady I ever see."

"I agree," Sully smiled.

"You gotta go 'way t'day, Papa?" the little boy questioned.

"No," he said. "But.... there's gonna be some time comin' up when I'll have t' be away a few days at a time, Joe."

"Why ya gotta go?" his eyes saddened.

"Gotta make some money t' pay for the additions t' the house," the father told him.

"But Mama got money," the child stated.

"Remember the talk we had about how your Ma's money would be used?" Sully reminded.

"For other folks?" Josef pondered.

"T' help folks," Sully clarified.

"I come with ya when ya go 'way?" the little boy volunteered.

"Maybe some o' the time," he agreed.

"Good," Josef embraced him again.

"Ah, that feels good," Sully rubbed his back.

"Miss Bwidget make bweakfast," the child pulled back. "I go eat."

"Okay," Sully set him down on the floor.

"You an' Mama get up?" Josef was curious.

"Not yet," Sully whispered.

"Are ya welaxin'?" he questioned.

"Yep," the father nodded.

"Miss Bwidget say when ya welax, I gotta leave ya be," Josef informed him.

"Did she say why?" Sully grinned.

"Nope," the little boy walked to the door. "I see ya later."

"See ya, Joe," Sully chuckled as his son departed.

************

"Dorothy," Grace embraced her. "Good t' see ya home."

"Thanks," the redhead smiled. "It's good t' be back."

"How was your trip?" she inquired.

"The Indians have agreed t' send many of their children away t' a school in Pennsylvania," she informed her.

"Ya don't sound happy about it," Grace detected.

"Cloud Dancin' ain't happy about it," she stated. "Havin' their children so far away, maybe forgettin' their culture."

"Somethin' my ancestors know about," Grace nodded.

Dorothy noticed her friend's demeanor, "Everythin' all right?"

"No," Grace began to tear up.

"What's wrong?" Dorothy embraced her.

"Promise ya won't tell anyone?" she requested.

"I promise," Dorothy assured.

"Not even Loren," Grace added.

"I learned my lesson there," she smiled.

"I'm pregnant," Grace revealed.

"Pregnant?" her smile broadened. "That's wonderful news! But.... ya said everythin's not all right."

Grace composed herself, "I... I can't tell Robert E."

"Why on earth not?" Dorothy questioned.

"'Cause we ain't gettin' along," she responded.

"Doesn't he want a baby?" Dorothy patted her arm.

"Sure he does," she knew.

"Don't ya want him t' be the Pa?" the redhead posed the question.

"'Course I do," Grace insisted.

"An' ya love him?" Dorothy inquired.

"Yes," Grace wrung her hands.

"Then I don't understand," the redhead folded her arms. "Ya love him, want him t' be the father, an' he wants a child."

"Every time we're t'gether, we end up fightin'," Grace explained.

Dorothy gently rested her hand on Grace's abdomen, "Not every time."

Grace smiled slightly.

"Just march over t' the livery, an' tell him," Dorothy asserted. "Do it right now, an' don't waste a single minute more."

Grace removed her apron, determined to do as her friend suggested.

************

Josef approached his mother as she changed Annie's diaper, "I miss Katie."

"Miss her?" Michaela smiled. "Why, Sweetheart? She's only at school."

"I wanna go school," he said.

"Soon enough, my darling," Michaela lifted him up to sit beside the twins on her bed.

Josef leaned over to kiss their foreheads. Both babies actively moved their legs in response.

"They love their big brother," she stroked his hair.

"Katie's bigger than me," he looked down.

"What brought this on?" Michaela leaned on her elbows. "Are you feeling a wee bit jealous of your sister?"

"What jellice?" he tilted his head.

"Wanting what someone else has," she defined.

"Mama," he looked at her earnestly. "Why I not born first?"

Michaela took a deep breath. To her relief, Sully entered the bedroom at that moment.

"Got the horses ready," he said.

"Papa," Josef reached up to him.

Sully lifted him into his arms, "Hey, big boy."

"I not big," he frowned. "Why I not born first?"

Sully looked to his wife.

Michaela tried to answer, "Sweetheart, your Daddy and I couldn't pick who would be born first."

"Why not?" he struggled to understand.

"Well...." Michaela was at a loss.

"Joe," he rubbed the child's back. "Some things are outa our control."

"Can't ya tell God ya want a boy?" Josef reasoned.

Sully endeavored, "No. When a Ma an' Pa are gonna have a baby.... they.... that is.... it's a surprise."

"That's right," Michaela supported. "We didn't know Katie would be a girl or that you would be a boy until we had you."

"Why ya not want me first?" the child persisted.

"Most of all, we wanted our babies to be healthy, Josef," Michaela smiled. "Boys or girls, it didn't matter. We knew we'd love whichever we had."

"I wish I be twin with Katie," he glanced at the babies.

"Joe," Sully took his hand. "Ya know how sometimes at night, ya get scared or ya want someone t' talk to before ya fall asleep?"

"Uh huh," he nodded.

"Who d' ya turn to?" Sully posed the question.

"Katie," the little boy said her name with love.

"Why?" the father queried.

"'Cause she help me," Josef responded.

"You know why she helps ya, calms ya, makes ya feel better?" Sully asked.

"'Cause she knows stuff," he noted.

"She knows stuff 'cause she's a little older," Sully smiled. "Havin' a big sister makes ya feel better. Right?"

"Uh huh," the child admitted.

"You'll get t' do more things as ya get older," he pledged. "An' you'll always have your big sister t' help ya, too."

"You wight, Papa," Josef nodded. "I not jellice, Mama."

"Good," Michaela kissed his cheek.

Josef changed the subject, "Who Ol' Lang?"

"Old Lang?" Michaela considered. "I don't have any patients by that name. Do you know any Langs, Sully?"

"Nope," he rubbed the babies' bellies.

"Why do you want to know, Josef?" Michaela inquired.

"Miss Bwidget teached us song about him," the child specified. "He got a sign, too."

It suddenly dawned on Michaela, "Auld Lang Syne!"

The parents both chuckled.

"It's from the Scottish language, Sweetheart," she clarified. "It means 'old long ago' or 'the good old days.' People sing it on New Year's."

"Why we sing Scottish?" he wondered. "I don' un'stand it."

"Other languages don't always sound like our language of English," she replied.

"Is Cathic a lang'age?" the little boy pondered.

"No," Michaela was amazed at her son. "Why?"

"Katie say at church for Gwan'ma, Cathics talk funny," he recalled.

"In the church service, the bishop.... minister spoke the language of Latin," she explained.

"Why?" Josef continued his questions.

She answered, "Because when the Church was founded a long, long time ago, that's what language people spoke. They carry on the tradition."

"I glad we don' talk Latin," his forehead wrinkled. "I got hard time un'standin' English. I go see Miss Bwidget. She teached me that song again."

"See ya, Joe," Sully said as he watched his son depart.

Michaela lay back on the bed and sighed, "So many questions."

"Ma-ma-ma," Noah reached for her hair.

Sully caressed her cheek, "So beautiful."

She clasped his hand, "Let's go to the mountain."

************

Matthew stepped into the Castle Rock Saloon and approached the bar.

"What can I get ya?" the bartender asked.

"Information," Matthew set a coin on the top of the bar.

"What kinda information?" he inquired.

"I'm interested in a business," the young man leaned closer.

"What kinda business?" he wished clarification.

"A rhyolite quarry," Matthew stated. "I'm interested in buyin' some shares."

"I know someone who might be able t' help ya," the bartender nodded.

************

Sully approached the route that he normally employed to scale the mountain. Disturbed at what he saw, he stopped.

"What's wrong?" Michaela detected.

He jumped from his horse and stormed toward a sign nailed to a wooden post.

"Private property!" his temper flared.

Ripping the plaque from its post, he hurled it as far as he could.

************
Chapter 11
************

"Sully," Michaela's voice was calming. "Don't be upset."

"Why not?" he could not help himself. "Some lumber syndicate prob'ly bought this up, too."

"No," she climbed down and took his hands. "It's ours."

"What are ya talkin' about, Michaela?" he looked at her.

"As far as the eye can see," she caressed his cheek. "This is our land."

"You bought it?" he was surprised.

"Yes," she nodded. "When we were here on New Year's Eve..... you said you wished we could keep it just like this.... Now we can."

He was speechless.

"Are you angry with me?" she feared.

"No," he looked at the ground.

"Sully," she lifted his chin.

She spotted a tear, welling in his eye. Placing her palms on his chest, she lifted up on tiptoes to kiss him. Sully embraced her and raised her up to be eye level. Then more passionately, he returned her kiss.

"I wanted to give you something that would last forever," she tenderly ran her fingers through his hair.

"How I love you, Michaela," he was overcome.

"Let's go to the summit," she requested.

Clasping her hand, as he had done the first time he brought her to this special place, they strolled higher and higher. At the apex of the mountain, he caught his breath, overcome by the majesty of the site.

She turned to him and spoke:

"When I am standing on a mountain crest,
Or hold the tiller in the dashing spray,
My love of you leaps foaming in my breast..."

"Was that Wordsworth?" he ventured.

"Richard Hovey," she gazed into his eyes. "We'll always have this place, Sully."

"Thank you, Michaela," he framed her face between his hands. "But...."

"Please," she placed her finger to his lips. "No but's. Only love."

"You know I love you," he kissed her finger.

"This is for us, for our children, for the future," she avowed.

He swallowed hard, "I don't know how t' thank you."

She lifted up again and stroking the sides of his face, kissed him. For several moments, they stood enthralled at the magnificence of the view.

"You keep on givin' us a piece of eternity, Michaela," he stroked her arm. "With our beautiful babies.... now with the land I love."

She was moved by the power of his words.

"Nothin' t' say?" he grinned.

"I'm speechless," she smiled.

************

"Robert E," Grace approached her husband at the livery.

"What?" he did not look up from his work.

"I... I got somethin' I need t' tell ya," she touched his arm.

He stopped, "Ya gonna yell at me for somethin'?"

"No," her tone was soft.

"Grace," he took her hand. "I don' want us t' argue no more."

"I don't want us to either," she agreed.

"What is it ya wanna tell me?" he questioned.

"Let's go for a little walk," she encouraged.

"But I got...." he decided work could wait.

Removing his blacksmith's apron, he took her hand. They strolled toward the meadow. Then Grace guided him to the cemetery.

"Why we comin' here?" his brow wrinkled.

"I wanted Anthony t' hear, too," she smiled.

"Hear what?" Robert E was puzzled.

Grace cupped her hand to his face, "We're gonna have a baby."

"A baby!" his eyes widened.

"Yes," she could not contain her grin.

"That why ya been actin' like this?" he realized.

"I know I ain't been myself," she agreed. "An' I'm real sorry for that."

"A baby," he embraced her. "When?"

"Late June, Dr. Mike says," she replied.

Robert E took a deep breath then closed his eyes and exhaled slowly.

"Thank you, Grace," his heart filled. "Thank you for our baby."

"I think you might've had somethin' t' do with it, too," she teased.

His eyes watered as he took her hand, "Come on."

"Where we goin'?" she followed.

"Home," he grinned. "I'm gonna pamper ya the rest o' the day."

************

Matthew explained his plan to Castle Rock Sheriff Nate Leyland, "So, I set up a meetin' t'night. If what I suspect is true, I'll catch McBain tryin' t' sell me fake shares in the quarry. Then you'll have him red handed."

"Where is your meetin'?" the lawman questioned.

"The saloon," he responded. "After it closes. I figure that's what happened in Denver, too. Maybe Arnett an' McBain were supposed t' meet after the bar closed. Somethin' must've gone wrong, an' McBain killed him. I reckon my client, Fitzgerald, surprised him, an' McBain's been tryin' t' make him look like the culprit ever since."

Leyland nodded in admiration, "I think ya got somethin' there, Cooper."

"So, you'll be there t'night?" Matthew verified.

"I'll be there," Leyland consented.

************

"Dorothy!" Michaela spotted her friend as she pulled up to the Clinic. "When did you get home?"

"Little while ago," she hugged her.

"How did it go?" Michaela asked.

Dorothy shook her head, "Cloud Dancin's real disturbed. The tribal leaders agreed t' send their children t' that school."

"And he believes this is bad?" she perceived.

"The school's way over in Pennsylvania," Dorothy informed her. "He thinks the children will lose their Indian heritage."

Michaela nodded in agreement.

"I thought o' somethin' maybe we could do t' help the Cheyenne," the redhead commented.

"Oh?" Michaela was interested.

"Why not start a school here for Indians?" she began. "Cloud Dancin' an' me could run it. I could teach the children readin', writin', mathematics. He could help them learn about the wisdom o' their grandfathers."

Michaela smiled, "I think it's a wonderful idea!"

"So you're interested in supportin' it?" Dorothy was pleased.

"Definitely," she responded. "I would be honored to assist you with money for whatever you need."

"We're gonna have t' get permission from the Departments of War an' Interior," Dorothy qualified.

"Perhaps Sully could write to Secretary Schurz and former President Grant," she suggested. "Oh, Dorothy, I believe this could be so beneficial."

"I'm glad ya think so," the redhead smiled. "Cloud Dancin' said the Spirits guided us t' do this."

"Afternoon, Dr. Mike, Dorothy," Grace smiled as she and Robert E walked arm in arm.

"Grace?" both women spoke simultaneously.

She nodded to her friends that all was right.

"She told him," Dorothy assumed.

"You know?" Michaela wondered.

"She told me when I got back," she revealed.

"Isn't it wonderful news?" Michaela's heart was full.

"Indeed it is," Dorothy agreed.

************

"Brian?" Sully entered The Gazette office.

"Hey, Pa," he looked up from the desk.

"Just stopped by t' see how you're doin'," Sully looked around the room.

"I'm okay," Brian set down his pen.

"Anythin'..... on your mind?" Sully tapped the desk.

"No," he shrugged. "Just finishin' up this article about the New Year's Eve dance at the Chateau."

"I see," Sully folded his arms.

"How 'bout you?" Brian was curious. "Everythin' all right with you?"

"Oh, yea," he nodded. "I'm fine. I reckon you're pretty busy, huh?"

"Yea," the young man acknowledged. "But.... not too busy for you, if.... there's somethin' on your mind."

Sully decided to come to the point, "Your Ma mentioned ya had a friend who needed some advice. She thought maybe I could help."

"Oh," he averted looking at his father. "Yea, well.... my friend decided t' keep his feelin's t' himself."

"He givin' up?" Sully was curious.

"If he don't give up...." Brian hesitated. "It could hurt folks he cares about."

Sully placed his hand on his son's shoulder, "Don't wanna see you.... your friend hurt either."

Brian hesitated, then confessed, "Pa.... it's Lily."

"You're in love with.....," Sully stopped.

Brian sighed, "I try t' fight it. I really do. Please don't say anythin' t' Matthew.... or her."

"I won't," Sully assured him. "Makes things kinda complicated, don't it?"

"It's agony," Brian's jaw tensed. "I never been in love before, an' now when I finally think I am, it's gotta be like this."

Sully sympathized, "Ya say ya THINK it's love...."

"What's it feel like, Pa?" he sought his father's guidance. "How do ya feel when you're in love?"

Sully swallowed hard, "Well.... ya feel happy.... an' a little confused at first. She's all ya can think about, no matter what you're doin' or where ya are.... ya wanna do things with her an' for her all the time. An' just the sound o' her voice when she says your name makes ya feel like you could do anythin' in the world."

Brian smiled as he went on and on.

"You're lucky Ma felt that way, too," the young man said.

"I'm the luckiest man in the world," Sully knew. "But.... when one o' my kids is hurtin', it's hard t' think about my own happiness."

"I'll be all right," Brian reasoned. "I got my work t' occupy my time."

"Work might fill up your time, but it can't fill up your heart, son," Sully stated.

"You know what it's like t' lose a love, Pa," Brian pointed out. "I feel like I lost one, but it was never really mine."

"You're a good man, Brian," Sully patted his back. "An' you'll get through this. Your Ma an' me are here for ya, an' we love you."

"Thanks," Brian felt a lump in his throat. "I love you, too."

************

Matthew sat nervously in the darkened Saloon. Suddenly, he heard footsteps behind him.

"You the fella interested in the quarry?" it was McBain's voice.

"I am," Matthew spoke deliberately.

"I got what ya need," McBain said.

"How much?" he inquired.

"One-hundred shares for a thousand dollars," McBain replied.

"Tell me more about the quarry," Matthew spoke low.

"I represent Silas Madge," he answered. "He started the quarry nearly seven years ago. He wants t' expand, so he's sellin' shares in it."

"Let me see the shares," Matthew insisted. "Set it on the table there."

McBain unfolded the document and did as he requested. Matthew picked it up and held it closer to the lamp. As he read, he became suspicious.

"You say you represent the owner?" he challenged.

"That's right," McBain acknowledged.

The click of a revolver was heard.

"Put your hands up Enid," Sheriff Leyland spoke.

"What the....." McBain bolted for the door.

************

"Papa," Josef sat on his father's lap by the fireplace. "Mama talk lang'ages."

"Languages," Katie corrected.

"I know she does, Joe," Sully smiled. "She learned 'em in school."

Michaela looked up from her position on the floor, "I had to study Latin and French."

"You talk other lang'ages?" Josef turned to his father.

"Cheyenne," he said. "An' some Spanish."

"Mrs. Slicker can talk Spanish real good," Katie commented. "How 'bout you, Bran?"

The young man was lost in thought, "Huh?"

"Brian knows some Cheyenne, too," Sully said. "So do you an' Katie."

"The babies will speak it," Katie helped her mother with the twins.

"Why?" Josef questioned.

"'Cause they got Cheyenne names," the little girl said.

"Think I'll turn in," Brian rose from the chair.

Michaela and Sully looked at one another, sympathetic to his plight.

"Time for you children, as well," Bridget stepped into the living room.

"We stay up longer?" Josef implored.

"Go on," Sully patted his behind. "Do what Miss Bridget tells ya."

"We'll bring the twins upstairs shortly, Bridget," Michaela instructed. "Thank you."

"All right, lass," she turned and followed Katie and Josef up the steps.

"Poor Brian," Michaela sighed.

"There's more to it than ya think," Sully sat down beside her on the floor.

"What?" she lifted Annie and kissed the baby's cheek.

"You were right in thinkin' it was Brian who's in love," he clasped Noah's little hand. "Problem is who he's in love with."

"He told you?" she was anxious.

"It's Lily," Sully stated.

"Lily?" she was surprised. "Oh, no."

"Yep," he raised Noah into his arms.

"What are we going to do?" she considered.

"Nothin' we can do, Michaela," he cautioned. "Gettin' involved could make things worse."

"Neither Matthew nor Lily suspects, do they?" she thought about it.

"No," he responded. "It's better that way. Just let Brian work through his feelin's I guess."

"He must be in agony," her heart went out to him.

"It'll be hard for him t' avoid seein' her, too," Sully agreed.

She reached out for his hand. He smiled and drew it to his lips, gazing at her with the intensity that never failed to stir her.

"Pa," Annie patted Sully's arm.

"Hey, Annie," he leaned over to kiss her.

"Bah," Noah attempted.

"Say Pa, Sweetheart," Michaela encouraged their son.

"Oooh," Noah smiled.

************

"Hold it, Enid!" Leyland shouted.

McBain stopped in his tracks.

"Turn around real slow," the Sheriff demanded.

As McBain began to pivot, he drew a knife from his belt and threw it toward the Sheriff. It missed him, but plunged into Matthew's shoulder.

Leyland fired his revolver and felled McBain. Then stepping closer, he checked the body for any other weapons.

"You all right?" he called to Matthew.

Matthew cringed at the biting sting in his shoulder, "I.... think so."

"You keep an eye on him," Leyland stood up. "I'll go fetch the doc."

"Okay," Matthew began to feel lightheaded.

When the Sheriff departed, Matthew went to McBain's body. He felt for breathing. Still alive. Then he searched his pockets. There was a piece of folded paper in the man's shirt. Matthew took it out and began to read.

"My God," he reacted. "I gotta tell....."

Suddenly Matthew felt himself struggling to stay conscious. After folding the paper and putting it in his shirt pocket, he succumbed to the darkness.

************
Chapter 12
************

Sheriff Leyland returned shortly to the Saloon.

The doctor examined Matthew first, "He's fainted."

Leyland checked McBain, "Still breathin'."

The physician verified, "Yep. Barely."

"Enid," the sheriff leaned closer to the dying man, "You wanna confess t' anythin'?"

"I confess," his voice was faint.

"T' what?" Leyland prompted.

"I..... did it," McBain was fading. "I... killed Tom Arnett. Lord have mercy on me...."

With those final words, he was gone.

"Let's get Cooper over t' your office," the Sheriff stated. "I'll send a telegram t' that sheriff Lawson first thing in the mornin'."

************

Michaela and Sully lay in each other's arms as sleep began to claim them. She drew lazy circles on his chest while he rested his lips upon the top of her head, relishing the scent of her.

"Sully?" she wondered if he was still awake.

"Mmm?" he stirred.

"Do you think Matthew's all right?" she voiced her concern.

"Yea," he figured. "He's gonna send us a telegram t'morrow lettin' us know how things are goin'."

"That's good," she kissed his chest. "Grace told Robert E about the baby today."

"That's real good," he smiled. "Now they can get back t' lovin' each other 'stead o' fightin'."

"Je t'aime," she whispered.

"That French?" he grinned.

"Oui," she stroked the side of his face.

"Je t'aime," he repeated. "Wha'd I just say?"

"I love you," she smiled.

"Oh. Merci beaucoup," he returned.

"You speak French!" she raised an eyebrow.

"I once knew a French fur trapper," he smiled. "He taught me a couple o' phrases."

"What other French words did he teach you?" she was interested.

He chuckled, "Neige.... 'cause we had a lot o' snow that winter." Then he kissed her, "And.... s'il vous plait."

She deepened their kiss, then pulled back to catch her breath.

"How 'bout 'I love you' in Latin?" he challenged.

"Te amo," she returned. "And in Cheyenne?"

"Nemehot tse," he replied. "Seems like we said it in enough languages. How 'bout we show it?"

Sully slid his hands beneath the blanket and along her hips. Then he pulled her against his body. Michaela felt a shiver, then kissed the lobe of his ear.

While continuing his kisses, Sully began to gather her nightgown higher. Michaela felt his warm hands on her flesh, caressing her and causing her pulse to race.

She extended her hands toward his waist and abdomen, then maneuvered them lower. Sully gulped, immediately roused by her touches.

"I need ya so much," he could hardly speak.

"As I need you," she returned.

Sully raised up slightly, then gently lowered himself onto her. Both felt their desire heighten. Unable to control the intensity of their attraction, they began their pleasurable union. Repeatedly fulfilling the other's wants, they finally calmed, content in their mutual embrace.

"Nemehot tse," she felt secure in his arms.

"Te amo," he plied kisses to her neck.

************

At dawn, Robert E rose from the bed and washed his face. He glanced back at Grace, still blissfully sleeping. It was the first good night's sleep either had had in weeks.

Stepping to the edge of the bed, he ran his finger lightly along her cheek, "I do love you, woman."

"I love you, too," she opened her eyes.

He grinned, "Thought you were sleepin'."

"Can't rightly sleep when you're touchin' me like that," she replied.

"How ya feel?" he linked his fingers in hers.

"I feel fine, Robert E," she smiled.

"Me, too," he leaned down to kiss her. "Real fine."

"Robert E," her expression changed. "I.... I'm kinda scared."

"Why?" he worried. "Did Dr. Mike say anythin'?"

"No," she assured. "But...."

"Nothin's gonna happen this time, Grace," his voice was certain. "We're gonna have our baby. I promise."

************

Michaela heard Annie fussing in her crib. She looked over her shoulder at Sully, still spooned against her back. As quietly as she could, she slipped from the bed and went to her daughter.

"Good morning, my darling," she smiled.

"Ma," Annie reached up.

Michaela enfolded her in her arms, "How's my precious little girl this morning?"

"Boo-oodle," the baby uttered.

Caressing the top of her daughter's head, she kissed her temple, "I believe Papa was right. Your hair is growing."

Then Michaela strolled with Annie to the window to gaze out at the new morning.

Sully opened his eyes, moved by the site of his wife and child to quote:

"When at dawn she sighs, and like an infant to the window
Turns grave eyes craving light, released from dreams,
Beautiful she looks, like a white water-lily
Bursting out of bud in havens of the streams.
When from bed she rises clothed from neck to ankle
In her long nightgown sweet as boughs of May,
Beautiful she looks, like a tall garden-lily
Pure from the night, and splendid for the day."

Michaela spoke low to Annie, "Your Daddy loves to recite poetry."

He clapped his hands softly, inviting the baby to come to him. Annie eagerly responded as Michaela handed the child to her father.

"Was that Byron?" Michaela sat beside them on the bed.

Sully kissed Annie's cheek, "George Meredith."

"Dorothy and Cloud Dancing returned yesterday," she informed him.

"How'd it go?" he wondered.

"Not well," her expression saddened. "The Indians are going to send many of their children far away to that school run by..... I don't recall his name."

"Pratt," Sully recalled Cloud Dancing's telling him.

Sully silently stroked Annie's back.

"Dorothy and Cloud Dancing want to start a school here," she noted. "A school for the Indian children."

He looked up with interest, "That sounds promisin'."

"I thought so, too," she agreed. "I told them we would help in any way we can."

"Good," he smiled slightly.

"They're going to need authorization from the Departments of Interior and War," she added. "I told Dorothy perhaps you could write....."

"They don't listen t' me, Michaela," he interrupted.

"Perhaps you could write Schurz and Grant," she completed her thought. "It couldn't hurt, could it?"

"I guess not," he replied.

"Good," she smiled.

They heard pounding on the front door.

"I wonder who that could be?" she reached for her robe.

Sully placed the baby in her crib, then donned his buckskins. Soon there was a light tap at their bedroom door.

"Sully, Dr. Mike," it was Bridget's voice. "Sheriff Lawson's here."

"Hank?" Michaela was surprised. "What on earth is he doing here at this hour?"

Sully opened the door, "Thanks, Bridget. We'll be right down.

When they descended the steps, Hank stood before them, grim faced.

"Somethin' wrong?" Sully suspected.

"Got a telegram from Sheriff Leyland in Castle Rock," he nodded. "Matthew's been hurt. McBain's dead."

"What?" Michaela was frightened. "How badly is he hurt?"

"Telegram said he'd been stabbed," the lawman returned. "I'm headin' up there. Thought you two would wanna go."

"Ma? Pa?" Brian stood on the staircase. "What's wrong?"

Michaela turned to him, "Sweetheart, it's Matthew. He's been hurt. Sully and I are going to him."

"I wanna come, too," he insisted.

"Bridget," Michaela informed her. "When we get to town, I'll ask Dorothy to come out and bring Katie back to school. We'll get word to Lily, as well."

"Right," the nanny nodded. "Don't worry about the wee ones. They'll be fine."

"Thank you," Michaela hurried up the stairs.

************

Michaela concluded her examination of her son, "He's very lucky. There's no major damage."

"How long's he been out?" Hank wondered.

"Sheriff Leyland said about ten hours," Sully answered.

"His body has sustained a major shock," Michaela stroked the young man's blonde hair.

At that moment, Matthew began to stir. As he opened his eyes, he saw Michaela.

"Ma?" he was still groggy.

"Right here," she comforted. "You're going to be all right."

"Wha..." he cringed at the pain.

"I'll give you some more laudanum," she reached for her medical bag.

"Wait," he clasped her hand. "I don't wanna sleep again. Got somethin' I need t' tell ya."

"What is it?" she was curious.

"Where's McBain?" he questioned.

"Dead," Hank stated.

"I.... I found a paper on him," the young man became more alert. "In my shirt pocket."

Brian found his shirt draped across a chair.

Removing the folded sheet of paper he asked, "Is this it?"

Matthew recognized, "Yes. Look here. It's a list o' all the people McBain's been doin' business with."

Sully read it, "Preston Lodge?"

"Look what it says beside his name," Matthew urged.

"Three thousand dollars for...." he stopped.

"What is it, Sully?" Michaela wondered.

"For the mountain," he answered.

"What?" Michaela was shocked.

"What mountain?" Hank was puzzled.

"Aside from the hospital plot, I purchased a thousand acres including that mountain," Michaela told them. "Preston charged me four thousand dollars for it."

Hank took the paper, "Maybe we oughta look at the deed."

"Are you saying it's not legitimate?" Michaela's heart sank.

"I don't think so, Ma," Matthew suspected. "I think both you an' Preston were victims of McBain's fraud."

"Unless Preston was workin' with him," Hank speculated.

"I can't believe he would do something like that," Michaela was horrified.

"I wouldn't put it past him t' take advantage of ya," Sully's jaw tensed. "Wouldn't be the first time."

"I'll check it out when I get back t' Colorado Springs," Matthew spoke.

"I'll help ya," Brian volunteered.

"Thanks, little brother," Matthew smiled.

************

Sully's temper had been growing on the train ride back from Castle Rock. After badgering Michaela for days about how to invest her money, the notion that Preston Lodge had taken advantage of her filled him with rage. Ever since the smarmy banker had come to Colorado Springs, he had coveted Michaela and done everything in his power to rile him.

Sully could take the jabs and digs aimed toward himself by the pompous Bostonian, but to take advantage of Michaela and her new found wealth was more than he could bear.

After seeing his family into the Clinic, he headed for the bank.

Preston concluded his meeting with a potential customer, "And I think you'll find that my bank offers...."

Suddenly, Sully burst into the office.

"What the...." Preston was surprised.

Sully eyed the man seated before him, "You might wanna leave now, an' stop back later."

The man's eyes widened as he noted the angry expression on Sully's face.

"No, Mr. McNally," Preston called after him. "Don't leave!"

Sully came around to Preston's side of the desk. Grabbing the lapels of the banker's coat, he cast a steely gaze into his eyes.

"I believe you got my wife's money," Sully spoke through clenched teeth.

"She..... she had a power of attorney," he nervously returned. "Everything was done with strict propriety."

"No it wasn't," Sully's temper grew. "Ya took her money, an' gave her a worthless piece of paper."

"What are you talking about?" beads of perspiration began to appear on his forehead.

"That land deed for the thousand acres," Sully's voice was controlled. "It's worthless. You an' McBain conspired t' take her money."

"Who's McBain?" Preston seemed genuine.

"Ya know damn well who he is," Sully shoved him into his chair. "Now, here's what's gonna happen, plain an' simple. You're gonna march over t' your little vault there, an' you're gonna withdraw Michaela's four thousand dollars."

"I.... I can't," the banker swallowed hard.

"Ya got no choice," Sully's eyes narrowed.

"You don't understand," Preston straightened his jacket. "That money is not kept here at the bank per se. I loan it out to others. You obvious don't understand the world of banking."

Sully grabbed him again and lifted him out of the chair, "What I understand is when I needed extra time t' pay the mortgage on the homestead, you wouldn't give it. Well, now I ain't given you any time. You have Michaela's money by the end of the day."

"That's impossible," Preston shook his head.

Sully let go of his jacket, "Get it!"

With that, he turned and left the bank.

************

Lily fluffed Matthew's pillow, "There. That should make you feel more comfortable."

He grinned and reached for her hand, "Just havin' you here is the best medicine."

"I told Dr. Mike, I'd stay here at the Clinic to watch over you," she smiled.

Brian knocked on the frame of the door.

"Hey," Matthew beckoned him. "Come on in."

"Hey, Lily," Brian avoided looking at her directly.

"Hello, Brian," she smiled. "I'm going over to the Cafe to get Matthew some supper. Can I get anything for you?"

"Oh," he fidgeted with his hands. "No, thanks. I'm goin' home soon."

"All right," she put on her coat. "I'll be back shortly."

"What'd ya find out?" Matthew could not contain his curiosity.

"I found out who the landholder is," Brian handed him a paper. "They're willin' t' sell t' Ma."

"Good," he nodded. "I doubt if she can get her money back from Preston."

"Could she sue him?" Brian posed the question.

"I don't know," he considered. "If he was duped, too, I don't know if there's grounds."

"Oh, well, she's got plenty o' money left," Brian reasoned.

"You okay?" Matthew noticed his demeanor.

"Yea," he forced a smile. "I was just worried about ya."

"I'm all right," the older brother assured him.

"Good," Brian was relieved. "I never wanna see you hurt, Matthew."

"I'll be fine," he returned.

************

"Sully?" Michaela saw him sitting pensively by the living room fireplace. "Dinner's nearly ready."

"Okay," he did not look up.

She sat on the arm of his chair and ran her fingers through his hair, "Thank God, Matthew is going to be all right."

"Um hum," he agreed.

"Is something troubling you?" she sensed.

"No," he was less than truthful.

"What is it?" she persisted.

"Mama! Papa!" it was Josef's voice from upstairs. "Come quick!"

Fearing an accident, both parents bolted up the steps. When, out of breath, they reached their bedroom, they saw Katie and Josef standing by Noah's crib.

"What's wrong?" Michaela was concerned.

"He say it," Josef beamed. "Noah say it."

"Say what?" she questioned.

"Noah say 'Pa,'" Josef was excited.

Michaela lifted the baby from his crib, and held him up for Sully to see.

"Say 'Pa,'" Katie held the baby boy's hand.

"Pa," Noah ventured, then turned his head into his mother's shoulder.

"That's my good boy!" Michaela smiled.

Sully was moved, "That's real good, Noah."

"Thank you, children," Michaela caressed their heads. "You've worked very hard."

Sully tickled his son's side, "Hey, No-bo."

Noah leaned over toward his father, "Pa."

Sully kissed his forehead, "Real good."

"Dinner!" Bridget called from downstairs.

Suddenly, the sight of his precious family so innocently enjoying their moment of joy, triggered Sully's anger against Preston anew.

"Michaela," he tensed. "I got somethin' I need t' do."

"What?" she thought it strange. "Does it have to be done at this moment?"

"'Fraid so," he nodded. "I'll be back soon as I can."

"Sully," she called after him.

"Where's Poppy goin'?" Katie was concerned.

************
Chapter 13
************

As Sully neared the bank, he saw the light still on inside.

"Where you off to in such a hurry?" Hank's voice interrupted his mission.

"Just takin' a walk," Sully avoided answering.

"Wouldn't be that you're takin' a walk t' see Preston, would it?" the sheriff rubbed his beard.

"Stay outa this, Hank," Sully's voice was cold.

"You gonna try t' get back Michaela's money?" he assumed.

Sully did not answer.

"That's what I figured," Hank nodded. "Why don't I come with ya?"

"Don't matter t' me if ya come or not," Sully resumed his walking.

When they reached the bank, Sully tried the doorknob. It was locked. He knocked. When Preston did not respond, Sully kicked the door, and it opened.

"Shame about that door, ain't it?" Hank eyed the broken latch.

They found Preston cowering behind his desk, "I.... I told you I could not possibly have the money for you tonight. Upon closer examination of...."

"An' I told you, ya had t' have it," Sully's tone was stern.

"I reckon I'm gonna have t' arrest ya," Hank folded his arms.

"Yes," Preston smiled. "Splendid idea. Arrest him, Sheriff, for breaking and entering, not to mention threatening...."

"Not him," Hank pointed to the banker. "You."

"Arrest me?" Preston pointed to himself.

"That's right," the sheriff asserted. "Seems t' me you been sellin' counterfeit deeds. That's a pretty serious crime."

"I didn't know it was bogus," Preston implored. "You must believe me."

"I got no proof," Hank shrugged. "Only evidence I got is a fake deed ya sold Michaela."

"If.... if I could come up with her money, would the charges be dropped?" Preston anticipated.

Hank looked at Sully, "I reckon we wouldn't have a crime then, would we?"

"Nope," Sully played along.

Preston's shoulders slumped. Silently, he went to his vault and spun the combination lock until it opened. Reluctantly, he removed the money, and handed it to Sully.

"Here," he frowned. "But if you ever...."

Sully pointed his finger into the banker's face, "You don't threaten me. An' you don't EVER take advantage o' my family. We understand each other?"

Preston nodded without comment.

"Well, now that everyone's friends again," Hank smirked. "I guess we can go on about our business."

"Don't think that you've heard the last of this, Sheriff," Preston spoke up.

Hank glared, "Only one thing more dangerous than threatenin' Sully, Preston. That's threatenin' me."

"It's not a threat," the banker qualified.

Hank eyed him one last time, then followed Sully out of the bank.

************

Sully entered the homestead and found no one on the lower floor. He glanced at the mantle clock. Eleven o'clock. He regretted that he had missed dinner and tucking in the children. But after leaving the bank, he needed to ride his horse until his anger lessened.

Removing his coat, he stepped into the kitchen, where he found a plate, covered by a napkin.

"Bridget saved you something," Michaela spoke from the steps.

"Thanks," he pulled the envelope from his pocket and set it on the table.

"Sully," she came to him. "Where were you? We were concerned."

"Nothin' t' be concerned about," he sat down and uncovered the meal.

"What's this?" she spotted the envelope.

"Your money," he replied.

"How did you....." she stopped. "Did you go to see Preston?"

"It's all there," he stated.

"Sully," she sat beside him. "Please, tell me what happened."

"I went t' see him," he looked up. "Told him he owed ya your money back. There it is."

"Just like that?" she was skeptical.

"I might've said a few other words," he wiped his mouth.

"Byron Sully," she touched his chin, guiding him to look at her.

"No one's gonna take advantage o' you, Michaela," he avowed. "'Specially him. I can take what he says t' me, but I won't tolerate him doin' anythin' t' you. Ya gotta be real careful now. There's a lot o' unscrupulous folks out there who'll try....."

She suddenly thought, "You.... you didn't hurt him, did you?"

"Preston?" he shook his head. "He ain't worth scrapin' my knuckles on."

"Brian was able to locate the real owner of the land," she informed him. "And Matthew will handle the transaction."

"So you still wanna buy it?" he asked.

"Yes," she nodded. "It's our mountain."

"Kids okay?" he queried.

"They missed their Papa at bedtime," she noted.

"What'd ya tell 'em?" he felt a pang of regret.

"I told them you would be here first thing in the morning, when they wake up," she said.

At first happy to see her husband, Michaela's relief was turning to upset for his mysterious departure.

"Sully," she broached the subject. "It frightened me.... when you left like that."

"Why?" he was uncertain. "You knew I'd be back."

She felt a tear welling, "It reminded me of....."

She couldn't go on.

"Michaela," he rose from the chair and drew her into his arms.

"It reminded me of when you left to help the Indians at Palmer Creek," she leaned against his shoulder. "You didn't say anything. You were just gone."

"I'm sorry," he felt guilty.

"Please," her reddened eyes implored. "Please don't ever....."

He explained, "I only wanted t' protect ya."

"You could have told me where you were going," she responded.

"I know," he nodded. "I should've."

He stroked her back and felt her gradually begin to relax.

"Come on," he took her hand. "Let's go up t' bed."

She nodded and followed him. When they reached the second floor, Sully quietly checked on the children, then joined Michaela in their bedroom. She crawled under the covers. He could tell that she was still disturbed.

Sully removed his beads and set them on the bedpost. Then he came to her side and sat down.

"I was too angry t' tell ya where I was goin', Michaela," he hoped to explain.

"Too angry to prevent my worrying?" she countered.

"Too angry t' think straight," he swallowed hard. "No excuse for worryin' ya like that. I reckon I still got a lot t' learn about bein' a husband."

He leaned over and rested his head in her lap. Michaela stroked his hair, then bent down to kiss it.

She whispered, "As my husband, you've taught me more about love than anyone I've ever known."

He looked up with the blue eyes she adored, "Forgive me?"

"There's no need to ask that," she smiled.

He scooted closer and cupped her cheek in his palm, "I'd do anythin' for you. Anythin' t' keep you from bein' hurt. Then I turn around an' worry ya."

"Shhh," he touched his lips. "It's over now. You're here beside me, safe and sound."

He kissed her, "I love you."

"I love you, too," she returned the kiss.

He leaned in to kiss her neck, then whispered:

"When do I see thee most, beloved one?
When in the light the spirits of mine eyes
Before thy face, their altar, solemnize
The worship of that Love through thee made known?
Or when in the dusk hours, (we two alone,)
Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies
Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies,
And my soul only sees thy soul its own?"

"Our souls are one," she spoke low. "Was that Elizabeth Barrett Browning?"

"Dante Rossetti," he spoke tenderly.

She turned up the corner of her mouth in a provocative smile. He perceived her invitation, and ran his finger along the upper edge of her nightgown.

She gulped as her body reacted to his touch, "How..... how far are we going with this, Mr. Sully?"

"Far as the eye can see," he grinned.

THE END

EPILOGUE

Pratt's concept in running the Carlisle School was, "Kill the Indian and save the man." The Indian boarding school was established to break spirits, destroy traditional extended families and cultures, obliterate memories and languages, and especially to make the children deny their Indianness, inside and out.

Luther Standing Bear was among the first group of students to travel to the Carlisle School. He detailed the journey east in his book, "My People, the Sioux". He described traveling on a "moving house" - his first experience on a railroad car. As they arrived at stations along the way, throngs of curious people peered into the trains, anxious for a catch a glimpse of these 'wild' children. Pratt had wired Chicago of their stopover, and the newspapers had publicized the journey.

The children finally reached Carlisle in the middle of the night, October 6, 1879. Hundreds of townspeople welcomed them and accompanied them to the army post. But when Pratt, Miss Mather and the children reached the empty military post, tired and hungry, there were no provisions for them. No bedding, no food, no clothing - none of the requested necessities. Once again, Pratt had been foiled by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The children slept on the floor in their blankets.

Children from reservations across the West were transported to the school in order to assimilate into white culture. This assimilation involved cutting their hair, burning their clothing and wearing European-American dress. They were prohibited from speaking their Native language, and punished for infractions.

Of the 12,000 Indian children who attended the Carlisle school over its
39 year life span, most returned to the reservation. Some of the returned students, much to Pratt's disappointment, joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Pratt detested the Buffalo Bill show and was upset that he was forced to share exhibition space with Cody at the Columbian Exposition in 1891.

Enrollment at the Indian School began to grow as more and more nations' children were recruited. The original group of 82 grew to yearly averages of 1,000 students, necessitating more living and classroom space. The students constructed an administration building, a gymnasium for athletics, shops for the industrial training, and a chapel for worship on the grounds.

A cemetery was also needed. At the Carlisle School, as on the reservation, the health of many Indian people was in peril as a result of contact with the white man. Some students were stricken with tuberculosis or smallpox. Others could not cope with the severe stress of separation from family and tribe. Most of the children who became ill were sent back home to their families, but some did pass away at the school and were buried there. Of all the children buried in this graveyard, the Apache represent the greatest number.

The most famous student from of the Carisle School was Jim Thorpe (1887-1953), after whom a town is Pennsylvania is named. Jim Thorpe was a Native American from the Sac and Fox tribe. In the 1912 Olympics, he became the first and only person to win both the Pentathlon and Decathlon. He was also the first American to simultaneously play professional baseball and football, and he became the first president of the National Football League.

In recognition of Jim Thorpe's contribution to sports, The United States Postal Service honored him with a commemorative stamp at the Oklahoma State Capitol's Rotunda as part of the postal services' "Celebrate the Century Program."  The Jim Thorpe stamp went on sale nationwide February 3, 1998. The following year, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution designating James Thorpe as "America's Athlete of the Century."



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